Thursday, June 28, 2012

My boy

Today was a rough day for our little family. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that my boys gave me extra love today. At the end of the evening, as we were getting John ready for bed, he climbed into my lap and said, "I love you so much mommy. I love being with you every day and every day I love being with you." We then listed the others that we love, grandparents, friends, etc. And, then he asked if I loved Jesus. As soon as he asked this, he turned, our eyes met, and we both said, "Oh, yeah, I love Jesus!"

That's the stuff that makes life worth living.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring on the Farm

     It's so hot it feels like summer, not spring! And, the bugs are out in full force this year because we had such a mild winter. But, I'm not complaining. I love the warm weather. I love the new buds on the rose bushes, the green, green grass as far as the eye can see, and the longer days filled with dirt and hard work.

     New life brings hope for the future. My birthday was April 26th and 90, count 'em, 90 chicks arrived in the mail. We'll have loads of farm fresh eggs to sell starting in September. When we had 45 + laying hens last year we could not keep the eggs "on the shelves." The demand for r-e-a-l food is great. As we've set goals for this 2012 growing season we always keep in mind what the consumer wants. And, since we are consumers ourselves, we believe we have a pretty good idea of the kinds of foods people want. Factory farms cannot produce the kind of nutrition we all deserve. Foods grown locally always bring peace-of-mind, wholesome nutrition, and satisfaction ~ knowing that you have given the family farmer a chance to succeed and even thrive.

Visit our new farm site at Palisades Point Farm

Join us at the local Wilmore Farmers Market this 2012. 

May ~ October brings local growers to your doorstep... 

...from our Farm to your Table.

For the past 3 years, together with our parents, we've worked hard to build this...

and this...

Now it's time to build our farming future, set goals, and dig in for more hard work!

Friday, March 9, 2012

With Heavy Hearts

Dear family and friends,

    With much prayer and discernment, due to health issues, we have returned home to the United States. Of the almost 6 weeks we were in Taiwan, our family was sick for half of that time. As is always the case, there is an adjustment period in a foreign country, dealing with "new" illnesses that our bodies have not been exposed to in the past, new foods, etc. All of this impacted John and I (Jackie) in an unexpected and mighty way.  I'm sure many of you remember one year ago when we began to answer God's call to Taiwan that my (Jackie) health was a primary concern. I have spent the past 7 years dealing with inconsistent thyroid treatment. Graves disease, and now for me hypothyroidism, is a result of a weak immune system. (An example of an autoimmune disease that you are perhaps more familiar with is Lupus. Though this is not what I have, it is a better known immune issue as an example.) After working hard this past year to manage and maintain a healthy diet, losing weight, natural dessicated thyroid replacement, and more, we could NOT return to the past - the hard place for our family that was a result of my health.

    To use Charley's analogy, it's a little like ripping off a band-aid - returning home and facing the fact that it was more difficult that we imagined to adjust and maintain my health overseas. It's shocking at first, but necessary.

    We are thankful to Go International for allowing us to follow God's call. We feel strongly that we might not have been approved with many organizations because of Jackie's health issues. But, Go Int'l graciously worked with us. As you are aware, Kentucky was recently hit very hard by tornadoes and there is much relief to offer the victims of our community. Soon, we are going to talk about how we might fit in to their ministry at Go. This year-long process has renewed within me, Jackie, a great desire to help people. I am praying for ministry opportunities in and around our community.

    Will you pray for the health of everyone at the Home of God's Love? It's been a particularly hard season for illnesses for them. Please pray also for their faithful ministry to children - their building plans, changing adoption laws, and day-to-day work. We were so very blessed to be a part of life at the Home. It is a difficult adjustment to return from that life to this one in the U.S. As is usually the case, we were blessed so much more by them than anything we had to offer the Home. In the coming weeks, I want to share with you more about how God used us. 

  The plane ride was difficult for John yesterday. His tummy is still not feeling normal and his sleep was fit-full. Thankfully, he fell asleep several hours after we arrived at Charley's parents home yesterday afternoon. Then, as his head hit the pillow he fell asleep last night and has continued to sleep this morning. He's often so busy and excited about life that he doesn't take time to slow down and sleep at nap time when he's away from home. We are thankful that he feels so comfortable here and is catching up on some much needed rest.  
   Will you pray with us as we discern God's will as we return home? Thank you does not seem to accurately say what we feel to both the Lord and to each of you. We are blessed by each of your prayers, encouragement, and support as we've walked by faith this past year. God has met us in mighty ways as we've sought after Him more each day. As Christians, when we say we believe in His provision and put our trust in Him it takes more than just takes action. His knowledge of our hearts combined with our acts of trust and obedience have met in a way that has left us in awe of His greatness. It reminds us that this life is mostly about the journey.

With the hope and love that only He gives, 
Charley, Jackie and John

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rough Week

     It's been a pretty rough week here for us. John got sick last Sunday, one week ago today, with a fever of 101 and then 103. In addition, he began to have diarrhea and stomach cramps. I went into to the Home on Monday and quickly returned back to our apartment to take care of him. Then, I began to get sick on Monday and am now on day 7 of whatever this is. By last Thursday we were going stir crazy and it was a mild day with little rain so we went to a park in town. It was beautiful and refreshing to see something different. But, it was not so fun to be sick in the middle of this public park where the facilities were less than desirable. And, of course, there is an issue of purchasing toilet paper for the restrooms or bringing our own. The restrooms were out of tp and we had only brought a small amount along thinking that we could buy some if we were stranded. And, all were squaty potties except the handicapped room. Needless to say we were exhausted and napped well when we returned to our apartment.

     Thankfully, John is over his sickness, we hope! His bowels are slowly starting to return to a normal state and his fever and stomach cramps have been gone for several days. His energy level and appetite have steadily picked up too.

     Did I mention that I am on day 7 of being sick?! It's taking it's toll and I am discouraged. I have been in the bed most of the time. The cramping comes in waves...once an hour usually. I was able to sleep through the night last night. I am going to the doctor/hospital tomorrow, Monday. I don't feel that dehydrated and I don't think they will offer me anything worthwhile. Maybe that is pessimistic. If only I had brought Cipro with us, we might not be suffering for so long. I will just have to get up and go over to help at the Home soon because I feel useless and ridiculous.

     Charley has stayed healthy almost all 5 weeks, thankfully! He is our rock. The rock might be a bit cranky from taking care of two sickies for so long, but he is keeping it together and trying to pull us through.

     Last Friday I went over to the Home to work. It was sunny and I washed toys. The girls brought the babies out for some sunshine and fresh air and the ladies cleaned inside. That afternoon Charley ran to the bank in town. I was fixing John and I a banana and apple in the kitchen. In the time that it took me to cut up the fruit John had gone out the front gate and walked over to the Lake by himself. It is about 1/2 mile to the street venders. That is where several housemothers found him after the whole Home had been searching for him. Thankfully, they volunteered to hop on their motorcycle and go look for him. I did not have transportation because Charley had gone to the bank with the car. I was already pretty tired and that just put me over the edge. By that evening we were so wiped out that John and I fell asleep on the couch in the living room.

I'll update soon about what the doctor says on Monday. I'm really looking forward to it. Can you hear the sarcasm and optimism?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Today and every other day

My mother-in-love not so gently reminded me to write a post already. Ok. Ok.

Today was Saturday. So much happens here all the time that it's hard to put every thought into words. I can't count how many diapers I changed or mouths I fed. And, that's a good thing. Because, if I could remember, I might not be too motivated to get up and do it again tomorrow! In all reality, though, it is an attitude of servitude that one adopts. Or, is it servant-hood? Spell check corrects me, so I don't know.

Such helpless little babies with only 3 main needs: to be fed, loved and changed.

When we wake at 6:30 (which is when the sun comes up behind the mountain outside our bedroom window) we begin with personal devotions and prayer. I shower and Charley and John usually have breakfast waiting on the table downstairs when I am dressed and ready for the day. We read devotions together over breakfast and then I, Jackie, head over to the Home. On a sunny day I ride my bike. I have a little basket on the front that holds my water and purse. I turn left out of our apartment complex and ride over to the lake, Plum Blossom Lake. There are usually several people walking, riding bikes or taking their dogs on a stroll. It's a lovely ride except for the impending Temple above the lake that shouts interesting music, pounding drums or fireworks all hours of the night and day. It's part of the culture and I embrace and appreciate this. But, the things that the Temple represents cause me to shudder!

I ride by our little market street to get to the Home. There are usually 6 or 8 stray dogs loafing around. Another two left turns and I am on the little palm lined drive of the Home.

I need to interject here - most days it is NOT sunny and I drive over or Charley takes me. IT RAINS HERE A LOT, FOLKS.  A LOT. A LOT. A LOT. For instance, it's been sunny 12 or so days here since October of last year. LAST YEAR!

Back to the regularly scheduled programming...

Now begins the fun...waking the babies at 8:30 and changing diapers. Bottles and 4 servings of solid food is passed around and there is, of course, more diaper changes and kisses and gurgles and coos.

Play time is next on the agenda. All the bright lights overhead and sweet music on the cd player keep us all alive and kicking. Lunch time rolls around and more diapers, bottles and burping.

While the babes we walk over to the orphanage side where we eat the lunch that the housemothers have made. Nap time provides an hour or so of checking on my boys at home, taking a little siesta if the kiddos have worn me out, or reading.

More of the same in the afternoon: feeding, diapers, love, singing, laughing, playing, making silly faces and strange noises. Around 5 more solid food goes down the hatch for the 4 little ones who are over 6 months.

Stop. Would you like to know names of these precious little ones!? Even if you can't see faces on the world wide web, names are appropriate! There is precious 8-10 month old Anastasia, Anika, and Blaise. Then there is sweet 6 month old Trip...who is truly a trip! Next come Luke, Josiah, Robbie, Cassie, Rossie, Eden, Ethan, and Mary is the newest, smallest addition to the troupe. They are all precious and each is endearing in their own ways. I am ashamed to admit that I am forgetting several someones. For the life of me, I cannot remember every little life in the nursery! Yikes! I am getting old.

Dinner finds the babes asleep at around 5:30. 6 o'clock is dinner time on the orphanage side and it is truly a blessing to be able to eat and fellowship even though we don't speak the same language. I'll save dinner stories for another time. It's late and I must get some rest in order to wake up early with my little man. After dinner we are too pooped to pop. Or, as John says, "too popped to poop." We turn in to bed before evening devotions. We are sad to miss that time of fellowship, but John is exhausted by 7pm. (That was his usual bedtime in the States.) We head home, spend a few minutes together as a family and then head to bed in order to rise again early and do it all again! Thursdays are our days off. Last Thursday we were blessed by an intern, Word, a great young man who is an intern. He volunteered to play with John so that we could have the better part of the day to ourselves! It was great to be able to have some time to ourselves to talk without having to filter and spell out words to each other.

My fingers are falling asleep and my head is lolling onto my chin as I write. Goodnight!

P.S. I am sure there are typos. Please forgive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Little Slice...

...of Taiwanese life.

It's Wednesday evening here across the globe. At home, EST, it's Wednesday.
 And, your time is 5:30am. 
We are finishing our day and you are just beginning yours. Weird!
This living overseas thing is h.a.r.d.
We didn't realize how much of an adjustment it would be. 

Today we went to the hospital to see a doctor for my hypothyroidism.
 Bev, the U.S. born missionary who is now a legal resident of Taiwan, was our guide.
It was an adventure.
 And, the process was much like the U.S., but totally different too. Huh.
 Don't try to figure out the logic there.

Yesterday was a different kind of adventure. 
Ted took us to an amazing place on earth...Taroko Gorge.
 We traveled by train south about 1 hour. 
Then we rented a car and drove to the Gorge. It was filled with tourists. 
We even saw a few Caucasian people!
 Anytime we saw someone on the train or in the Gorge we smiled and said hello to one
 another like we were long lost friends. It was a bit ridiculous, but also wonderful.
 It is hard to be the minority is a sea of lovely Asian people! 

So, there are pictures to follow. 

We are in the middle of week 3 in *Luo-Dung, Taiwan.
 We are over the initial homesick hurdle most much of the time. 
In the States, we have seen either side of our families very often in the past 3 years. 
We miss them fiercely. 

A couple of equally strange and wonderful things about life here:

1. The multitudes of children and babies are a breath of fresh air & kids are kids everywhere.

2.  The smells that assault the senses are a mix of the above: strange and wonderful.

3. The drainage is different - no TP in the toilets. Wha? That's right. TP = trash cans. Ewww for this lady.

4. The rain hardly slants. It's just steady and straight down.

5. The impatients (flowers) grow wild rocks, on the side of streets, etc. 

6. Poinsettias can be 8 + feet tall!

7. Everyone speaks Chinese. 
(Does this surprise you?) 

8. The Taiwanese people that we have met are warm and kind.

9.  My husband is a fearless driver. (I think in part thanks to his northern upbringing!) He zips around scooters, watches out for pedestrians and doesn't break a sweat. It's pretty amazing. We are blessed to drive a somewhat really older vehicle that we have named, "Bessie the Blue Bomb." 
(We added the Bessie part b/c at times she doesn't want to move.)

10. When the sun shines the whole place lights up. 

Luo-Dung* village (our town)

Plum Blossom Lake, 2 blocks from our apartment

In front of the train station in Luo-Dung*

An old historic church. 
A devout Christian Taiwanese lady led many people to the Lord during 
the Japanese* occupation in the late 1800's. 

The people met inside this very small cave. Together, we all sang "Then Sings My Soul." Precious.

Finishing lunch and pineapple for dessert in a beautiful pagoda near a waterfall.

I didn't want a photo of the 3 Buddhist* statues. But, I though the incense
 and the orchids were picture -worthy :)

The heights were astounding. We've seen the Smokies and the Rockies. 
Nothing compares to the mountains on this little island the size of Indiana.

Charley and the rest of the group walked across a swinging bridge over the Gorge. 
It was something out of a movie. Seriously high. 

I have more pix, but they kept loading sideways. So, I'm going to work on them and post them later gaters.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A day in the life...

     I'm not sure what you see on your Google home page but, here in Taiwan, we see's Lantern Festival time. This, coming right after Chinese New Year!  (I am sure my Chinese grammer in the previous sentence would be horrendous.) Tonite everyone will light lanterns and, if the weather is nice, we'll walk down to Plum Blossom Lake for devotions in the dusk with the brightly lit lanterns! Our sweet boy is not feeling well...he's running a fever and has some chills. His appetite is still good and he is sleeping well. But, his level of play is way down. We would appreciate your prayers for him! So...all of that to say that we will most likely not be on the lantern walk unfortunately. But, I'm sure there will be more of those.

Today as I was driving over to the Home (with LOADS OF LAUNDRY), I came upon a funeral. I had no idea of the magnitude of such an event. A large bright yellow canopy with lots of flowers and lanterns, etc was blocking the entire road - with just an entrance, or walkway, into the families home. (And, when I say large, I mean it covers the whole road and is about 2 or more stories high.) Last evening we were coming over for dinner and saw Anna, Ted and Bev and several others representing the family walking home from the house where the person had passed. Ted was pushing a wheelbarrow. The custom is to take rice and pay respects, as far as we could gather.

The weather today is glorious. Right now, it is Monday and the time is 12:24pm. I do believe that it is 11:24pm EST in the US. So, the kiddos just finished lunch. I am upstairs just outside Ted's main office. There is a little computer room set up for the kids with a large table so that a few of us can set up laptops. The internet is excellent upstairs! Charley was even able to catch up on the CATS yesterday for a few minutes! Can't believe their win over SC...wait, yes we can. Best. Season. Ever. for Univ. of KY basketball.

Yesterday we made our first adventure into *Lo-Dung. It is a fairly large city (or about the size of Lexington, maybe a little smaller) and you can see mountains in the distance and water-filled rice patties everywhere. In the city itself there are many shopfronts with much for sale. The other day Anna took up to the Post Office, the bank, and the grocery store. And, we were able to find each of those things again yesterday. We are pretty proud of ourselves! (We only got lost once...just a small panic that lasted about 30 minutes :). Today we are cleaning, cleaning, cleaning the apartment. It feels good to get some things accomplished in our living space.

The rain has held off for 2 days, praise God! It's supposed to arrive again tonite or tomorrow. Pray for sun!

 John and Hannah just before we left
 John and Braden  (Sorry about the side view)
 In the *Hong Kong airport

Just outside our apartment, with the rain behind. All of the apartments look alike - so you can see the far complex in the back to get an idea of what the front of ours looks like.

I am sure there is so much more we'd like to say, but just can't think of the words right now. We pray each of you is well and your weather is sunny right now!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

We've arrived!

In Taiwan - 1pm local time. We just had a delicious lunch at the Home and before that we were handed two precious babes to feed! It's so nice and quiet and orderly and feels like home. We got about 4 hours of sleep after having a really hard night with Johnny. He misses "tucky" as he calls Kentucky. We'll need prayer for his comfort and transition. The flights were comfortable with plenty of food and entertainment - Cathay Pacific is the way to go! Will post again later as we have time and are more settled with a schedule. Thanks for your prayers. More again soon!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Taiwan, Here we come!!!!!!!!!

This is my (Charley) first post!!!!!! We had a good trip from the farm to Chicago, besides being stuck in some traffic for an hour.  God has given us such a peace and excitement for what He has called us to do that it was not as hard as we expected to leave our small piece of creation.  My parents had asked us a week or so ago where we would like to eat while we were here.  They wanted to treat us to a last "home" meal before we left.  It was no debate in my mind, Chicago style pizza, yum!!!!  Jackie is not the biggest fan, but she graciously agreed.  We had a great time together, it was very nice, thank you mom and dad!!!!

So keep us in your prayers as we head to O'hare airport mid-morning. It has been three years since we have really flown a long distance and I am hoping I don't have to have one of those x-ray, body scan things.  I haven't kept up on all they do now, so not sure what to expect.

Our scheduled departure is 2:20 pm central time and we travel 16 hours to Hong Kong.  Then we have an hour and a half layover before flying over to Taipei, only an hour and a half flight.  The Home of God's Love is approx. 2 hours south from Taipei by car ride.  Our flight gets in at 10:30 pm Wed. It will be so great to see someone from the Home waiting at the other end of our journey. Then, the real fun begins! We appreciate each of you so much. Thank you for your prayers - we have felt them every step of this road. Will update again as soon as we are able.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Tropic of Cancer

Taipei, Taiwan
found on google images

Charley found the following this evening...

"The Tropic of Cancer runs straight through the middle of Taiwan bringing with it tropical and subtropical weather. Taiwan experiences weather similar to Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong provinces. It typically presents an average temperature of 22C (71.6F) all year round. 
There is no severe cold in winter and no brutal summer heat. 
Taiwan always welcomes you with its pleasant seasons."

I think I will add that when we were there in September of 2008 the "no brutal" heat was found in the form of humidity. The sweaty humidity took our breath away!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A look back...and, forward!

Can't wait to show you the pix below. But, I first wanted to share a great link. The second Monday of each month finds us at the Wilmore Adoption Support group. It's such a nice resource to be able to talk with other like-minded parents about so many different parenting issues - challenges, joys, and adoption related information. Last night we talked about challenges in school. How do children who were adopted later in life than infancy deal with "bring your baby picture to school" and create a timeline of your life? (When you grow up in a thatch hut in rural Africa it's a little difficult to capture memories with a camera.) Our kids' birth stories are often vastly different than the 'average' American child. And, dealing with these things head-on and EARLY is so important for a child's self-esteem. It also helps other children to understand, learn empathy and to stand up for their friends throughout life together in the school system. We spoke about science classes and heredity and genes. One dad (before his kids were a twinkle in his eye!) was a teacher just out of college and was teaching this very topic to young people. As a particular student was figuring out her gene pool ~ dominant and recessive genes for eye color ~ she called him over to explain why her eyes were one color while none of her family members represented that particular color! It's humorous...but, also tragic! Talking about adoption early, while also not making it our #1 focus is a fine line. But, one that must be walked. Here is a link that is still developing. On it you will find much-needed resources like sensory therapists, counselors and occupational therapists. And, much more. Bluegrass Adoption Support Network, bringing to Kentucky a more aware and proactive group of parents this 2012!

Our Christmas on the farm was a joy this past 2011. We had family from Illinois, Indiana and Georgia. 
We ate well, played games, watched movies, watched the kids play, decorated gingerbread houses and even worked upstairs to install a shower. Wha? Yes, you read that correctly.
 It can't be a get-together with the Neal side without a little home renovation.  

We want to stop here. We cannot thank you enough, family and friends, for all of your encouragement, prayer and support of us as we begin the New Year in Taiwan. Our plans are not always God's plans and you believe that right along with have come beside us to rally and support His plans for our family to serve at the Home of God's Love in Lo-Dung, Taiwan. We are SO very thankful to the Lord for each of you and what you bring to our lives. The Frederickson's will be taking care of our dog, Farris. The Heckman's will be caring for our two cats, Sherpa and Binx. When we began this process back in April, the Lord brought buyers for our goats, guardian livestock dog, 60+ laying hens, etc. One of the buyers is a beautiful family ~ the Maple's. They have been some of our biggest advocates - they are our employers too.  
Aunt Kim in Maryland, Uncle Dick and Aunt Josie in Iowa, Uncle Jerry in Arizona, the Petersons in Colorado, the Wells in Georgia, the Angels in Georgia and so many of our close friends and family Here in the Bluegrass...each of you is so dear to us. Thank you for the blessing you are in are in our lives. We fly on January 31st from Chicago to Hong Kong. Then, on to Taipei, Taiwan. We don't know how long the Lord will allow us to stay - we'll keep you updated with prayers and blog posts and a newsletter or two. We are furiously tying up loose ends, applying for visas and packing, packing and packing some more. Bless each of you this New 2012 Year. We pray God's Biggest Blessings for you!

The cousins ~ early Christmas morning. 


Books and a panda from Great Aunt Cis and Uncle Norman

Sweet baby B. 2, almost 3 months!

Gaga and Papa Wells with their gingerbread house! 
Thanks to Uncle Josh and Aunt Rachelle, each family got to decorate our own. Fun tradition!

These two monkeys had fun times together. John was sick and went to bed early the night his cousins arrived just before Christmas Eve. But, what kept K. going during the drive down to KY from IN? Seeing her cousin John! So, just as he was laying his head on the pillow ~ in came his family and everyone had to give lots of hugs and kisses before bed! It didn't always look this picturesque at the table. 
But, aren't they sweet!?

The Brothers Neal

Last month we traveled to IN for our new niece's baby dedication. 
Below is a great pic of the Neal grandparents with their grandchildren. Wonderful, isn't it!?

And, most importantly...Charley read the Christmas Story from Luke. 

Love, Jackie