Whisked away

pano

Dear Philip,

Do you remember that Friday you whisked me away to the vast steppe in Mongolia?  Our road trip through the bright blue skies.  And private piano serenade over dinner.  Room 316 overlooking Turtle Rock.  Waking up without having to get out of bed.  Our morning hike with the horses to this rock.  We climbed to the top, prayed for our family and this nation.  We stood there in awe at the beauty around us.  Took a deep breath, relaxed and enjoyed being together.  Just the two of us.

Thank you for always wanting me to come away with you.  I love this life with you.  I love you, my wonderful Philip.  Every day.

two

“My beloved said to me, rise up my darling!  Come away with me!  Look, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.  The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtle doves fills the air.  Rise up, my darling!  Come away with me, my beloved.”  Song of Solomon 2:10-13

These Two

Ahsa and Everest.  These two.  They make every day a wonderful adventure.  They literally run circles around me now.  Here is a little update on who they are becoming…

They’re a year and a half and know Mongolia as their home. They are doing the typical running, jumping, playing and talking.  But they have almost the same exact vocabulary which is amazing because hardly any of their words are pronounced properly, but they pronounce each the same.  For example, ‘wa wa’ is water and ‘ba ba’ is Aby.  I often feel like I’m learning their language more than teaching them mine.

They don’t like being out of sight of each other.  One morning Everest slept longer than Ahsa (which never happens unless he’s sick — he was sick.)  Ahsa was so sad that she cried outside the bedroom door.  Ahsa also barges in on Everest’s timeouts in their room.  I find her squeezing toys through the crib bars when he’s supposed to be dwelling on how much trouble he’s in.

Ahsa loves her plush puppy dog.  Everest loves taking her puppy and runs around the room so that she’ll chase him.  Ahsa loves her baby.  Everest loves taking her baby so that she’ll chase him.  Ahsa loves her blanket.  Everest loves taking her blanket and running.  I think you get the point.

Aside from playing chase, Everest loves throwing rocks in the pond.  Ahsa loves trying to convince us that she can swim in the pond.

Everest does somersaults off the couch.  Ahsa curls her head into your lap and makes you hold her upside down until she’s delirious in laughter.  By the end of the day, both of them transform into daring couch comedians doing tricks and giggling at themselves uncontrollably… until we say ‘time to brush your teeth’ and Ahsa races to the bathroom at mach speed.  Something about the gurgling water has hypnotized them into loving teeth-brushing-time.  We love it.

Abyala, Ahsa, and Everest have filled our hearts with more joy than we thought we were ever capable of feeling.  And we were pretty happy before these guys!  Most days, you’ll find us exhausted, but very very happy.

 

Standing against violence

evac aby

Philip and Abyala giving a speech to more than 10,000 people in Sukhbaatar Square, Mongolia.

Look at her.  Standing tall beside her Daddy.  Serious and proud.  Feeling ‘very happy’. Sporting fuzzy pigtails, and a hello kitty slicker.  Reminding everyone that we work not for policy sake, but for children.  For our child, and every child.  Philip isn’t just the National Director for a Christian, humanitarian organization.  He’s a Dad.  And having his Abyala beside him culminated an overflowing passion and conviction that you could hear in his voice.

the crowdThey stood before a 10,000+ person crowd, amidst a rainy day.  Clouds parting long enough for Phil to give a speech about the importance of joining together to end violence against children.   It was as if God wanted to use the storm to remind everyone that even the wind and the rain obey Him.  The Lord will make a way for His good purposes to prevail.  Many people think this violence, this storm, is too deeply engrained to end in Mongolia.  But we know that nothing is beyond the reach of our great Lord.

 

Standing beside her Dad was a wonderful opportunity for Abyala to make an impact in Mongolia.  She got to show the nation that her Daddy understood something about them.  Abyala connected her Dad to the crowd.  Because of her, they physically saw his heart.  And could sense that he is more than a professional.  He cares.  Abyala manifested sincerity for her Dad.

aby wave.jpg

It’s amazing how God uses each of us in unique ways for His glory.  What a privilege for Philip and Abyala to stand before the nation, urging them to join together to protect their children.  It was exciting!

But most of our days consist of the usual.  Trying to figure out what’s for dinner.  Pushing papers.  Meetings.  Corralling kiddos.  Bedtime stories.  That’s real life.  Praying that we wouldn’t live for the spotlight.  That the light would not be on us, but in us.

And one last picture because they’re cute together!

phil aby

She dances

aby on stage

Our sweet Abyala has been taking ballet lessons at the Mongolian National Ballet School since January.  Tip toeing her way in joy, through challenges.  Every Sunday morning, she joins a group of 4-5 year old Mongolian girls to literally stretch themselves to new limits with their instructor Anna.  I watch her through a slim opening in the frosted glass door.  Often tears welling.  Amazed at her strength, tenacity and beauty.  She’s immersed in a culture that’s familiar but not her own, a foreign language that she desperately tries to speak, no one to easily connect with, doing something that’s painful, yet fun.  And every week, she’s excited to go do it again.  Each day, she dances around our apartment in her leotard, slippers, and leg warmers.  Practicing for the big day.  Anxious to go on stage.  Despite her being nervous.  Willing to overcome the fear because she loves to dance.

She went on stage for the first time on Sunday.  My heart almost burst with gladness when those red velvet curtains opened and I saw her glowing face.  She quickly smiled and gave a tiny waist-high wave when she found us in the crowd.  I was veraciously waving with an unending smile from which my cheeks still hurt.  Then Aby straightened her back, lengthened her neck, chin up and danced.  And danced.  And danced.  Oh my heart!  She was so poised.

on stage

Ballet class hasn’t been easy for Abyala given the language and cultural barriers.  Of the 280 children who danced on stage that night, Abyala was the only foreigner.  Despite the challenges of making friends cross-culturally, she perseveres.  Many say that children don’t need language to play and there is a degree of truth to that.  But to truly connect, we’ve found that Abyala has needed words (sentences) that she can share with her friends.  Words aren’t the only means by which she connects, but they have certainly been an essential piece to her developing close friendships.

As I continue to watch our sweet Abyala grow into this beautiful, multi-cultural little girl, I’m learning that my experiences, abilities, and knowledge to parent her are not sufficient.  Phil and I are not enough.  And we weren’t designed to be.  I’m learning more and more the importance of Christ in her life.  (As well as ours.) And the importance of prayer.

Abyala can dance with her Mongolian friends because of grace.  The grace of God upholding her with his right hand.  He encamps His angels around her.  Protecting.  Giving strength.  And mercy for each day.  He blesses her with understanding and courage.  Relationships come because He provides.

 

aby water

Please pray for our sweet Abyala.  Pray for one or two good friends to come into her life, especially as she begins school this fall.  Pray that God would build her up into a woman of God and use this unique childhood for His good purposes. Pray that she would experience Jesus, see him, love him, and trust in him as her savior.

Two years later

 

family

First family hike (no carriers) on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar

Today we’re remembering the people of Nepal.  Two years after the earthquake and still many families are waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.  For their lives to be a semblance of what they once knew.  For hope to be real.  Please pray for the people of Nepal today.

Nothing seemed fitting to write after the earthquake. No story can properly bridge the gap between the earth shaking beneath your feet day after day and the normalcy that would come with time.  Our hearts still shudder when we’re near the booms of a construction site or when a fire alarm goes off.  But the intensity of fear has dimmed.  And healing has had time to take root.  God walked with us through that darkness and has brought us into a season of abundance.  We don’t deserve this abundance, but we thank God for it day after day.  Still the words don’t come easily.  I’m not sure this blog will recover.  But for the sake of documenting memories for our kids, here’s our best shot.

I was only eight weeks pregnant when the earthquake struck.  I remember walking around Kathmandu with our two year old Abyala in a baby carrier on my front, and Ahsa and Everest tucked away in my belly.  All three children close.  Wanting to protect them with every fibre of my being.  Knowing that I had no control.  Praying persistently.  Tripping over rubble.  Remaining faithful to God’s ask for us to stay.

But God doesn’t always allow you to take root in a community the way you envision.  For us, staying in Nepal was hard but it was home.  With all the comforts of familiarity and community.  But that was about to end.

Everest and Ahsa were born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on November 2nd.  It was a time of relieving joy.  Relief that everyone was healthy and safe.  Two adjectives that held excessively deep meaning during that time in our lives.  Everest was born first with Phil and my Mom on either side of me, holding my hands, pushing me forward as our amazing baby boy came blaring into the world.  With his sweet cry.  Then, fifteen minutes later came Ahsa.  She was breech.  We knew she would be.  And I was terrified I wouldn’t push strong enough to birth her safely.  Pitocin spiked, my hands still being held tightly, Dr McCoy calmly told me to begin pushing again.  Energy surged through my body that I didn’t know I had.  Two pushes later, I remember watching Ahsa being born with her tiny bottom first.  She greeted us with sweet cries as well.  Then I got to hold my Everest.  The joy and fear of two babies was incomprehensible.  I nursed him and afterwards he simply laid on my chest until the nurses whisked him away to an isolette for the next 24 hours.  He had a minor respiratory issue.  And despite having the normal sadness of a Mom simply wanting to hold her baby, I had a deeper sense of peace.  And our Ahsa who didn’t even weigh 5 lbs yet was strong – thank you Jesus!  Every nurse and doctor was amazed.  She could barely nurse because her mouth was so tiny, but we learned together.  God granted patience.  Finally, after a long first day of updates on Everest’s condition, he was rolled into our room and reunited with his family.  We snuggled the two of them together and thanked God for His blessing of abundance.  We are still in awe.

Phil and I had to endure a heart wrenching separation for three of the four months around their birth.  He had to work in Nepal while we waited for the twins’ arrival.  Only two weeks after they were born, Phil had to go back to Nepal.  We can’t put words to that season.  Then, there were three moves in 5 months (USA- old house in Nepal – new house in Nepal – Mongolia) before we were settled at our new home in Ulaanbaatar.  I think we’re still recovering from that time of uprootedness, uncertainty and sheer exhaustion with three kids under 3.  It’s probably a blessing to everyone that we weren’t blogging at that time.

But now we are living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  Two years after the Nepali earthquake that will forever mark our lives.  Phil is leading a team who improves education, healthcare, and protection systems for children throughout Mongolia.  Our purpose goes beyond development –  it’s about the great love of Christ going forth in this beautiful land.  It’s not about the adventure – we’re over that.  But we’ll never be over what Jesus did for us on the Cross.  We want everyone to know the love and hope of Christ.  So we continue to follow Jesus.  To the very ends of the earth.  Even when it trembles.

“May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”

Psalm 104:31-33

The earthquake

earthquakeThe 7.9 magnitude earthquake jolted the earth, our bodies, and spirits on April 25th, 2015.  It’s a day we’ll not forget.  We had our good friends Matt and Cindy visiting.  Cindy was taking a nap.  I was 7 weeks pregnant and happily napping as well.  It was noonday. Phil, Matt and Abyala had left to buy envelopes for our Trade for Freedom shipments.  I didn’t know exactly where they were going, but I wasn’t bothered because I knew they’d be back soon.

Then, the shaking began.  It was like a violent roller coaster.  I woke up to the bed moving harshly back and forth and the alarm sounding.  I began yelling for Cindy, “Come, Cindy!  Come, Cindy!!  It’s an earthquake!”  I was disoriented.  Glass was crashing around me.  Was Abyala home?  I checked her room and remembered she was with Phil.  Was Cindy gone as well?  I continued to yell for her.  Only seconds passed but it felt much too long.  I started into the stairwell still calling for Cindy.  I knew I had to be careful not to fall and injure these precious ones inside of me.  I got down only a few stairs and turned around for our “go-bag” with emergency supplies.  As I started down the three flights of stairs ahead of me again, I saw Cindy and my heart felt a bit of ease.  I continued to yell for her and she was coming quickly but unsteadily.  Every few steps she would lose footing and eventually came down the stairs on her bottom.  I don’t remember how I got down the stairs without falling.  I sincerely believe God carried me and my babies down those three flights of marble.  When we reached the doorway, we heard our neighbors wailing in fear and sadness as they sat in the green field that we were approaching for safety.  The ground continued to shake.  We all sat together, scared.  I began to pray for God to make the shaking stop as I watched buildings swaying and dust rising up where houses had fallen.  After 60 seconds of trepidation, the earth settled.  Temporarily.  We felt some relief.

But where was Phil, Abyala, and Matt?  Were they okay?  I had forgotten my cell phone inside the house.  On the third floor.   I had to go back in.  It was my only chance of reaching them and knowing they were safe.   So I ran back inside, praying every step of the way.  Asking God for his blessing of protection.  Asking Him to show me where my phone was situated.  I am always flighty about my phone.  As I entered our flat I saw complete chaos, but remained focused and immediately God took me to my phone – sitting on top of our dresser – not in my purse where it should have belonged.  But He took me there first.  And I immediately ran back down the stairs as a tremor began.  I held on tightly to the railing and again, God carried us down safely.

I reached the field and Cindy and started to anxiously call Phil without success.  I saw a text message from him that they went to Thakali Kitchen to buy us lunch.  At least they weren’t far.  But were they ok?  I wanted to panic.  I knew our babies couldn’t afford my panic.  God somehow kept me together.  I was crying out to Him inside, wanting to break down, but He was keeping me close to Him.  He was keeping my babies safe.

I continued to call Phil countless times without avail.  My mind wandered where it should not go.  I paced.  I softly cried.  I talked to Cindy.  And after the longest 45 minutes of my life, Phil, Abyala and Matt stood at the top of hill yelling for us!  It was perhaps the best moment of my life.  I saw my two loves and our friend — in wholeness — even smiling!  As I ran towards them, Sweet Abyala started crying and reaching out to get me.  She had been so brave!!  I picked her up with a furry of joy and fear.  I kissed Phil and wouldn’t let him a foot away from me.  I felt God’s lavish love for our family in a way I still can’t describe.  God doesn’t promise us protection, but he blessed us with it that day.  Forever grateful doesn’t even begin to describe the way we feel.

Phil, Abyala and Matt were at Thakali Kitchen waiting for food when the earthquake hit.  They ran outside.  Abyala’s stroller fell down, but Phil had already been holding her, so Matt picked it up and took it outside with them.  (Abyala tells this story to me almost everyday, still.)  All the cars had stopped.  The road was crowded with people, wailing, scared, but mostly safe.  Abyala was safely tucked in her Daddy’s arms.  After the shaking stopped, Phil went back inside the restaurant to ask for his food.  And he got it!  (He amazes me.)  They had to traverse nearly a mile’s worth of rubble to get back to us.  Walls had fallen down all over the road.  The alley to our house couldn’t be passed without climbing, so they climbed over the rubble — lifting Abyala over it in her stroller.  A typical 10 minute walk took them 40 minutes.  If they had been walking on that alley when the earthquake hit, they would have been badly hurt, if not worse.  God protected them.  He poured out blessing upon blessing.

As we all waited for the tremors to cease, our young neighbors began singing praise songs to our Lord — Jesus!  It was the sweetest song of praise.  As we waited, we hoped it would stop.  But it didn’t.  For days, weeks, months, the tremors have continued. The initial shock was life changing.  The tremors following were traumatizing.  But we’re okay now.  There is so much more to say.  I could tell you about sleeping outside with Abyala for a few days.  Seeking out safe places.  Phil leading World Vision in their response.  The pain of being separated from Phil during days when we felt unsafe.  The way by which we’ve been healed, day by day.  I hope to write that down someday. The point is this…God has been good to us.  We are grateful.  Please continue to pray for Nepal as many people are still recovering and rebuilding their lives.

Twins: Babies and Earthquakes

Spring time in Nepal with the Ewerts !

Spring time in Nepal with the Ewerts

It’s been an unbelievable, unimaginable spring.

Our world has been shaken.  Our lives have been changed.  Our hearts have felt overwhelming joy and fear.

And, God has never stopped showing his unfailing love to us.

On April 15th, we went to Ciwec Clinic in Kathmandu for an ultrasound after I had a wonderfully positive pregnancy test!  Also after I suffered from severe food poisoning – nothing new in Nepal – but scary when you’re in the first trimester of your pregnancy.  I asked for an ultrasound, just to make sure our baby was okay.  As my Nepali nurse was giving me the scan, she couldn’t stop smiling.  She was radiating joy.  She asked if we wanted the good news and of course we said yes!  We expected to hear that our baby was healthy.  But instead she told us that our BABIES were healthy!  We are having TWINS!!

I immediately had this beautiful vision of three little ones climbing all over Phil – all of them laughing.  I was so happy!

Phil and I just sat there laughing.  We didn’t know what to say – except that Phil asked her to double check.  (Love him!)  We had talked about twins before – always in awe of those who do it and in mutual admittance that we just weren’t “twins people.”  God has such a sense of humor.

If you would have asked us if we wanted twins, we would have said no way.  But here we are, I am 19 weeks pregnant, and we are simply overjoyed.  Please if you’re reading this and thinking about how hard it’s going to be … just smile and be happy for us because frankly, this is our challenge and our gift.  The best things in life are often the hardest, aren’t they…

So we reveled in this news for one terrifyingly wonderful week, then the earth violently shook beneath us.  On April 25th, Nepal experienced a 7.9 magnitude earthquake which jolted our home and penetrated fear into our hearts.

To be continued…