Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
What could be better than an Ethiopian welcome, FOVC style?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eating our way through France...

  • Abby eats crepes and pastries every 5-10 minutes;

  • I can't say Dave is drinking wine every 10 minutes, but I get the sense he does enjoy the whole have-a-glass-of-wine-at-a-French-cafe scene. If he starts wearing a beret and smoking cigarettes, we'll have to do an intervention. Or, I'll leave him to his own devices without a translator!;

  • I had doral (some kind of yummy fish) STRAIGHT AND FRESH from the Mediterranean Sea today...while LOOKING at the Mediterranean while eating in a restaurant in the port town of Cassis;

  • True to her carnivorous, carbo-loving form, Allison enjoys the Charolais variety of beef...and she is quite a baguette hound;

  • And Meelsie seems to be missing basic old familiar food...and was a bit too happy to have some frites (that's French fries, which are not actually French) at a McDonald's where we accidentally / not on purpose found ourselves mid-morning today. I should have bought a bunch of boxes of chicken McNuggets (they don't ever go bad, do they, because I don't think they're real food?) which I could pop out of the diaper bag for her eating pleasure whenever we pull up to a classy French joint.

I wish I could upload photos, but alas, I'll have to share pictures when we get home.

Yesterday we drove northwest of Aix to Arles, Les Baux and St. Remy de Provence. (And yes, the GPS works pretty well--as long as I translate the French for Dave the Driver--and our French driving experience has been far more pleasant than last summer's Italy driving experience!)

Arles is the town (village?) where Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne painted. I took a photo of Dave and Abby outside the house where Van Gogh's famous "Bedroom at Arles" was painted (malheureusement, la maison etait ferme! Boo!).

Since we're so artsy, it should be known that a print of "Bedroom at Arles" hangs in our very own bedroom at home--ha! Here's what the famous painting looks like:

After Arles, we went to an amazing medieval village called Les Baux de Provence. The town and its castle date from the eighth century. It was amazing! Here is a picture (that someone else took) of Les Baux:
St. Remy de Provence is another beautiful old town. Unfortunately, many of the shops there are closed on Tuesdays, so we didn't stay long. Another of St. Remy de Provence's claims to fame is that Van Gogh was institutionalized there for about a year. Hmmmm...

Last night we dined at "Les Deux Garcons," a famous restaurant here in Aix that opened in 1792. Apparently it was a favorite of Paul Cezanne. (Also, I'm pretty sure it's the only restaurant I have ever been to that is listed in the Michelin Guide.)

After we sat down, our waiter offered us "an apperatif" to drink called, "pastis." Having recently re-read "A Year in Provence," I was all eager to drink pastis....because Mayle's friends and acquaintances in the book drink pastis like it's going out of style.

Anyway, the waiter brought Dave and me a couple of tall, narrow glasses. Each had about 2 inches of cloudy liquid, and about 8 inches of...nothing. Dave and I each took suspicious sips. Then we breathed fire across the table at one another. My my my, that stuff was STRONG!!!!

After several minutes, the non-English-speaking waiter (by the way, we haven't found ANY English speakers down in these parts...not a single speaker of it's a good thing I know enough French to be dangerous!) was able to convey to us that the 8 inches our glasses was meant to be filled, by us, with water. Upon adding 80% water to the highly-potent pastis base, we ended up with a somewhat palatable licorice-tasting beverage. It wasn't that bad, but I do think it's an acquired taste.

Today we drove over to a fabulous village called Cassis. Oh la la! It was so wonderful. Cassis is supposedly the "poor man's St. Tropez," but we didn't see anything poor about it. It was beautiful and quaint, and the girls loved taking off their shoes at the Mediterranean Sea. (I fear Amelia was wishing for Chicken McNuggets....but at least she was nice about it.)This is someone else's photo of Cassis. We ate at one of the buildings right in the middle of the row. Formidable!

On the agenda for tomorrow: Monaco. Friday we're off to the "Hill Towns of Luberon," then we travel to Paris Saturday. The days are going by too fast!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Aix en Provence

Happy Birthday today, Dave!

After 24 hours of planes, trains and automobiles, we arrived at our apartment in Aix en Provence late yesterday afternoon.

The adventure began with Dave forgetting his passport and taking a $300 round trip cab ride from the airport back home to retrieve it from the scanner where he was making copies before we left. He arrived at the airport 20 minutes before our flight was to leave (the rest of us were on the plane--ha!)and had to elbow his way through security to catch the train to terminal C...the farthest terminal from the main terminal. Boy am I glad I wasn't involved in the forgetting-the-passport-incident!!! Yikes!

Anyway, he barely made the flight. After an initial hour of Amelia crying and scared out of her wits on the leg from Chicago to Paris, we settled in for a few hours of sleep. Once we arrived in Paris, we took the high speed train to our depot in Aix en Provence, where we picked up our lime green rental car, and drove to our apartment. True to form, we endured another Jason Bourne-esque adventure with Dave at the wheel as he navigated extremely narrow one way streets...going the wrong way at speeds too fast for the situation...and this with the help of a GPS this time!

Finally, we arrived at our destination at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon just in time to get settled in to our apartment and then visit the recommended Brasserie around the corner for dinner. Now, we're ready to begin the R&R and tour the region in the coming 5 days we have here.

This morning we woke up and strolled down to the Sunday Farmer's Market (pictured above) just a few blocks from the apartment. We came home with fresh fruits and plenty of lavender, which is indigenous to the area.

Who knows what's in store for tomorrow?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Microbes and a cute picture and we're leaving tomorrow!

For those of you with young children. It's NEVER too late to start fearing the dreaded Science Project. At our school, it is a requirement for fourth grade. The rest of the students will turn their projects in on March 25. Since we'll be out of town then, Abby is turning her project in today.

Here's my disclaimer: Sure, she chose a bit of a tricky project. But we didn't put it off and we did budget our time wisely.

It's the darn MICROBES.

They didn't grow on our schedule. They took their own sweet time to grow, in spite of the tasty agar we fed them.

And Abby couldn't finish the project until she knew how her experiment was going to turn out.

We finally got it all put together yesterday. Yea!

Here is the finished project. We're very proud of her hard scientific research, in spite of those pesky microbes.

But as I said, no matter the age of one's young children: it's never too late to start dreading the Science Project!

Finally, here's a cute picture of Meelsie to hold you over until we return....

...because we leave for France at the crack of dawn tomorrow!

Au revoir! A bientot! A toute a l'heure!

And by the way, a rubbing alcohol solution is the best microbe-killer. Lysol is a close second. And a weak bleach solution is the worst!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Loss of a Hero

The orphans of Ethiopia have lost a great friend and savior. Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra, from Melissa Fay Greene's book "There Is No Me Without You" passed away yesterday, March 17, 2009.

If you haven't read "There Is No Me Without You," I can't recommend it highly enough! It will change your life.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Oh ma bonté!

"Oh ma bonté!" means, "Oh my goodness!" in French.

It is the sound of a French person who is perhaps shocked, overwhelmed or generally freaked out.

It is also the sound of a Longmontian mom who will BE in France....WITH her whole family....FOR two weeks....IN less than a week.

And that Longmontian mom HAS started to write her to-do list. But she hasn't yet started checking things off the to-do list.

And, oh yeah. One of the Longmontian mom's daughters has a science experiment to finish and project-ize before they all leave the country.

So the Longmontian mom is freaking out.

Oh ma bonté!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Would you like a ham with those peas?

Amelia is becoming one busy gal!

She plays and plays...
She works on her walking...
She digs through Mom's purse...
Examines Mom's accessories...
And tries 'em on for size!
Now she's in the kitchen...
Where she pulls out the oatmeal...
...and even offers to cook it!
Finally it's dinner time. And Amelia wonders...
..."If I plant peas in my curly hair..."
"...will they grow???"

Would you like some "ham" with your peas?

Because if you're looking for a silly, busy, darling little ham of a girl, You have come to the right place!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I am speaking at our women's retreat this weekend. Here is the "story" I plan to share:

I started to seek to really live for God in my early twenties, when I was in graduate school. At that time, my idea of the perfect future life was to have three children--especially three daughters--and to drive a mini-van.

(Here's a 1990 minivan!)

Fast forward about ten years: I drove a mini-van. My husband and I had two lovely daughters—one I carried in pregnancy, and one who we adopted domestically. Life had not been perfect, but it had been good. And blessed. I loved God, and I could so clearly see His hand over my life. I hungered for Him—to know Him and to serve Him.

In 2002, God gave me these verses:

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:5-6

I was confident these verses were for my life FROM HIM. That meant more to me than I can express. These verses were God’s personal gift to me, and I expected to find my identity in them. I felt like I had a really beautiful destiny in the Lord.

You should know that when God gave me these “life verses” in 2002, I was thirty-four years old. By that time, I had lost five babies in various stages of the pregnancies. My husband’s job had gone down in really ugly flames during the dotcom bust of 2001. As I said, life hadn’t been perfect, but I knew that it had been good. The difficult situations I had experienced had served to make me grateful for God’s blessings in my life, and to bring me closer to Him.

Back to the life verses: Being very young and naïve, I thought these “secure lots” and “pleasant places” and “delightful inheritances” that God was promising me in these verses were His response to my desire to live for Him, in service to Him—in spite of the losses and bumps in the road that I had experienced.

Deep down, I think I hoped I had endured my share of pain and God was pleased with me. Perhaps I hoped I had made it through my season of “hard stuff” and the future would hold more “easy stuff.” At least, that’s how my naïve self saw it.

But it seemed as soon as God gave me these life verses, life became more difficult and more painful. Our family went for two years with no income at all. I would cry out to God, I spent hours in His Word…..looking for Him, looking for His peace. For about eighteen months I never sensed God’s presence. I felt utterly abandoned and alone. I didn’t know if I would make it. I withdrew. I sought God harder than ever before in my life. And there was no response. No sense of whether I, whether my family, would be rescued. I started to wonder if God was even real. Or worse, was He simply mean?

Finally, my husband got a company started in Kansas City, and we made plans to move there. Longmont, and Rocky Mountain Christian Church, were my heart’s home. But we were desperate for a financial reprieve, and I was grateful that something was finally happening. I thought the “rescue” had finally arrived. We put a positive spin on our move and I even looked forward to living near my mom and sister again.

A few weeks before we left Longmont, I had a phone conversation with my sister, who lived in Kansas City. Immediately after our conversation, she went to my mom’s basement and hung herself. My mom found her several hours later.

“Suicide” is a word whose meaning is impossible to grasp until you live it. The days and weeks and months following my sister’s death were a blur. We got ourselves moved to Kansas City, and if anything, it was even worse. I had left most everyone and everything I knew and loved back in Colorado. I would tell my husband I felt like an invisible woman in an invisible mini-van. Nobody in my day-to-day life knew me, and no one knew my pain. “My sister just killed herself” is a phrase that was always on my mind, one I was ready to blurt out at any time. I think I even told a stranger at Hobby Lobby once. I was so alone. I was so desperately lonely.

Meanwhile, my husband’s business was growing pretty well. In fact, it kept growing until expenses outpaced revenues. After having barely survived two years of no income at all, we had to cut our income by about seventy percent. This went on for twenty-one months.

I would alternate between clinging to God and looking for His promises….and being overcome with despair. I felt I had no more perseverance in me. I would bury myself in the Psalms. I wanted to believe God would redeem me and my life and our situation, but I was losing all hope. It would be so easy for Him to come through for us. So why did He stay away?

As I poured over the Psalms, I would occasionally run across my “life verses:"

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Reading those verses heaped pain after pain on me. I was filled with guilt and shame--how could I have been so presumptuous to claim such lofty verses for my life? I must have mis-read God. Maybe I didn't know Him as well as I thought I did. A person like me didn't deserve verses like that. In the past, I had struggled with my unworthiness. My unworthiness morphed into a sense of worthlessness. My own lack of worth enveloped me. I felt wounded on so many fronts. And deep down, the only explanation I could come up wiht was that God was hurting me, or allowing me to be hurt, because I wasn't worth any more than that. So I tried to avoid those verses and I kept them out of my mind.
Now let's move forward a bit...It's been almost four years since our family moved back to Colorado. I'm still here! I'm alive! We have less than we had, but our life is so full, and it's filled mostly with peace and a fair amount of joy. Little by little, God has restored me. Well, He hasn't restored me, exactly. Because to restore me would mean He returned me to the younger woman I used to be.
No, He has rebuilt me. He has taken the pain and the loss, the fear and the suffering, and used it all to grow me into the woman I am becoming. God has done an amazing healing and redemption in my life. Is His work complete? No. I am such a work in progress! But for the first time in my entire life, I can say I like the woman I am...even with my wounds and my warts and my weaknesses.
Amazinging, I have worked at the church for three years now, doing the job in Small Groups that is so dear to my heart. What a healing and humbling experience it has been--to work at the place that has held my heart, when I have struggled so with my worthiness and my worth.
Seven months ago, my whole family traveled to Ethiopia to bring home our new baby daughter. Her name in Ethiopia was, "Ayitu, Found Abandoned." The police found this pitiful, pale, premature and malnourished newborn baby in a park. She was eventually taken to an orphanage in Ethiopia's capitol city, where she lived until we got there.
We named our new daughter "Amelia Ayitu Howlett." "Amelia" means "work of God." Bringing her home was a risky thing--spiritually, financially and even physically (after all, our original daughters are BIG, and we parents are OLD!) But it has been a wonderful season in our lives. Amelia has brought such hope and joy and love into our family!
In spite of the healing and redemption God has completed in me, until a few weeks ago, I still avoided my "life verses:"
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I think I didn't want to put God on the spot. With the wounds I have carried, I guess I didn't feel like I could honestly and completely say that my lot has felt secure, that the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places and that I have had a delightful inheritance. I didn't want to place on God a burden that He couldn't carry.
That's how I thought about--or avoided thinking about--my so-called "life verses."
Until God woke me up to talk to me about this retreat. It was around midnight on February 6, 2009. He gave me--again--these verses for my life:
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
And He told me that these verses have always been for me. But God's intentions for my life were far deeper and more real than my youthful hopes.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and asked God to take the cup that was before Him, He accepted the portion and the cup that God had assigned Him.
God assigned me my portion and my cup as well. My own portion and cup haven't always been a bed of roses. I have even felt lost and abandoned by God. But because of the refining and the redemption that have come with my portion and my cup, I do know now that my lot is secure.
I would have been content to have my boundary lines defined by a lovely home and beautiful daughters and a successful husband. But oh! God had so much more for me! He has extended my boundary lines all the way around the world!
Through brokenness, He has started the work of molding me into this woman that I actually like. Would I recommend the circumstances I have walked through? Nope. But would I change the circumstances I have walked through? Not at all. Of course I don't know the future. I don't know what difficulties I might face.
But I do know that my name is not, "Lory, Found Abandoned." God has loved me enough to use broken circumstances in my life as He works to make me whole. He loves me enough to give me life verses! And He loves me enough to bring my life verses full circle in my heart and mind.
And as a final demonstration of how personal and kind our God is--I still drive a mini-van. And now it's filled with THREE daughters!