Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wrapping Up The Season

The Christmas season is almost over. I guess I think it is offically over when we are in the new year and I finally decide to take the Christmas decorations away. It is always hard for me to put the twinkling lights, the festive ornaments and the special nativities away each year. When I put them away, my home suddenly becomes seamingly sterile and dark.

We live in Wisconsin which means cold, dark days in the early months of the year. In December, our home is filled with candles in each window and a mantle filled with greenery and lights. Not to mention the 8 foot Christmas tree we have nestled in a corner in our living room! Even though our days are short and our nights are long, with the extra light in each room, we don't seem to notice.

Until January hits.

Sometimes I wonder why God created a season like winter. I know several people who suffer from horrible mood swings when they don't see the sun. Why would God want us to have a season of cold, dark nights and short, snow-filled days?

I can only speak for myself and say that in this season, I tend to slow down, spend a lot of time in reflection and cuddling up with my family. If I was to continue on the pace we set in the summer, where our days are filled with soccer games in the yard, hours of weeding in the garden, staying up late catching fire-flies, I think I would eventually wear out. But, in these winter seasons, I am given the opportunity to rest, to think, and to just be.

Take today, for instance. It is cold out! Snow is on the way. There is no school and I have a house full of kids playing their own thing right now. That leaves me with some time to relfect on the Psalm I just read or to just be in conversation with my Lord. I need to look at these days as true gifts! Gifts of extra time to be still.

So, I just made some pepermint tea and I am going to snuggle up on the couch, waiting for the snow to fly and read a new book. Sounds pretty good - even on a winter day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bearing Her Burdens

An open letter to Amaya,

I know that we will never meet on this earth. I know that you are not even allowed to know anything about me. But, I love you with a love that is only possible when God enables me.

I will be your son's new mom. I can't even begin to know or pretend to understand the pain you are in. I want you to know that your courage is an inspiration to me! You had the courage to give your son an opportunity to a different life. I can't say a better life, because I know you love him so much that no matter the circumstances, he would have been secure and happy in that love. I will say that your little boy will now have opportunities that he has only dreamed of.

He will be able to go to school and someday fulfill his dream of becomming a teacher. He will be able to ride a bike, sleep in a bed, eat all day long if he likes; go on vacations to mountains or beaches, visit amusement parks and ride roller coasters all day until he feels queazy, and someday drive his own car. He will be able to vote for his leaders and maybe even someday, be one of those leaders!

I want to promise you that my husband and I will love this little boy with all our hearts. We promise to raise him in a church, where he will be surrounded by Christian families who love each other's kids as if they are their own. He will worship the Lord each Sunday and will be taught God's word. I promise you that in our house, we will serve the Lord.

G will be taken care of; he will have brothers and sisters who love him and care for him also. He has grandparents who are already in love with him and even 2 great grandmothers! There are many aunts, uncles and cousins who will hold him, play with him and laugh with him every chance they get.

I want you to know these things, to somehow ease your mind and reassure you of your decision to give him up for adoption. I promise to love him! I also promise to tell him about Ethiopia - the beauty, the kindness, the landscape, the celebrations. We will eat Ethiopian food and listen to Ethiopian music to help G feel "at home". I will tell him about a mother who loves him so dearly that she chose a new life for him. I will always tell him about you.

My heart breaks as I think of you having to say goodbye to your one and only son. I am so sorry that life has been hard for you! Thank you for teaching G songs about Jesus, for those songs have comforted him in the orphanage. Thank you for preparing him to live with a Christian family who will carry on what you have started. Thank you for loving him and putting that precious smile on his face. Did you know he has a dimple on his cheek? I want you to know that his new daddy has that same dimple!

G will share a birth month with a new sister! And that sister has the same dimple!

I also want you to know that God chose our families to be united through this adoption long before either one of us thought of it! God has been in control this whole time and has made a way for us to be a new family.

God loves you and I pray that He is comforting you now. I pray that you are not in physical pain, but most of all, I pray that He would let you know that G is going to be loved by a new family! I pray that you know about us through the comfort and the cousel of the Holy Spirit.

Someday, we will be together, in heaven. You and I, two mothers who both loved the same child. Only in heaven can we come together with no jealousy or envy, but with true love the way God intended. We will be two momma's, two women who won't even need to say anything; we will just know how much we each loved and cared for G in our own times and in our own ways. On that day, I will run to you and hug you and say thank you. And I will tell you all about G and the man that he has become.

All this is possible because of your selfless gift to G.

Humbly,
Traci

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Do You Get It?

As I tucked my precious girls into bed tonight, I couldn't hold back the tears. In fact, I couldn't even talk I began to cry so hard. Something was building up inside of me, a vast love for Jesus that could not be contained any longer. I sobbed and used broken words to tell my girls how much I love Jesus. Eleanor got it.

I then went into Harry's room and said, "My prayer for you is that one day you know the deep and great and wide love for Jesus like I do."

This evening had been filled with bad news on the TV, reports of yet another snow storm coming our way, and an aching, nauseas belly. We were stressing a bit about Christmas Eve and the food preparations and the decorations and the gifts. After dinner, we all went our separate ways in the house. Some of the children went to the family room to watch Ice Age. Joe went in to the bedroom to work on the computer a bit. I wrapped up in a comfy blanket and flipped on a movie I had been anxious to see.

When I was a little girl, my sister saw a certain 70's movie called Godspell. She ended up with an 8-track or maybe a cassette tape of the soundtrack. I grew up listening to these peculiar songs of Christ's words, but not quite His words. As a teenager, my sister was no longer living with us and I still listened to that tape over and over and over again. My parents probably got sick of hearing me sing along in the bathroom each morning as I got ready for school. For some reason, these songs stuck with me.

But..I never saw the movie.

Until tonight. Again, you might think it odd that at Christmas time there are movies about Jesus' life and death. Although, flip through the channel guide and you'll see everything from the Discovery Chanel to National Geographic doing shows on this mysterious man named Jesus. The world just can't seem to get enough of him, even though they are not sure what to make of him and his teaching.

So, I watched a commercial free 2 hours of the movie. I sang along to each song (probably continuing to drive my family crazy) and would hush my children (who all ended up watching with me!) when they asked about the afros, suspenders, painted faces and shoes (all ultra 70s!!).

At one point, Jesus says, "My heart is broken over the grief I am about to bear."

Then, he goes to the garden to pray, begging his disciples to watch with him, pray with him. The message puts Jesus' words like this, "My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do YOU want?"

We all know the rest of the story. God wanted a sacrifice for our sins. And Jesus was willing to be that sacrifice.

Do you get it? All this hoopla about the holiday season means NOTHING if you don't get the reason why Jesus was born in the first place! Jesus came for one reason, to die.

There is a song we sing at church that rips my heart apart each time we sing it. One line says, "It was my sin that held him there." My sin. Those ugly, horrible, shameful things I do, often in the secret places of my life. Jesus could have easily said, "this is not worth it!" and jumped off the cross. But my sin held him up on that cross of wood until my justification was accomplished. How could I not be a blubbering fool when I think of how much I love Jesus?

Dear Lord, forgive me for sometimes going through a day and not thanking you for the gift of your son. Thank you for loving me so much that you were willing to watch your son be tortured and die a painful death. But thank you even more for raising him from the dead and that he sits beside you this very moment, interceding for me and my sin. Thank you for reminders of that great love you have for me, even in crazy movies from the 70s. I pray that my children would know you like I know you. I pray that you would enable, equip and empower me to be the kind of mom you have called me to be. I can't do this without you! You MUST work your love and grace and forgiveness through me to them. Help me to love them the way you love them so that they can turn to the world and love it. At this Christmas season, where we focus on the birth of Jesus, help me to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus as well. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. And I need forgiveness. I can't seem to get through a single day without sinning. Well, not even a single hour! I love you Lord, for you have provided a way for me to live as your child, redeemed and spoken for. I get it.

Amen.

The Best Christmas Present of the Year!

We were just given the best Christmas present of the year!!! We have a court date!

February 23rd, 2009.

Mark the date on your calendar and start praying. If all goes well, G will be our son on that day!

I also wanted to post some Christmas thoughts from the orphanage where G is living. The words are incredibly inspirational:

(From Henok, orphanage director in Soddo)

May the JOY of Christmas and God’s blessings be with you!
I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of you for your hard work.
Many Ethiopian Childs who otherwise would have died are alive today because of your help.
Many thanks to all the people who are working so hard.
Many thanks to all of nannies who are feeding the children and having the qualities of a good mother.
Many thanks to the people who traveled so many miles day and night to rescue the children.
Many thanks to the parents who accepted our children.
Many thanks to all US staff who works so hard with great motivation.
Many thanks to Addis staff who takes care of our children and move paperwork around with great responsibly.
God is good. He has brought us together to change the lives of children, this is not an easy job for any of us, but God gives us only what He knows we can handle. He also gives us the tools and abilities to do what He calls us to do.
Again thank you very much to CWA who takes care of us all so well by providing continuous encouragement, I appreciate your investment into our lives very much!

(From Dr. Kelemu, his wife Mekdes, and their family and staff. Dr. Kelemu and his wife were instrumental in CWA developing our work in Ethiopia, and he is the sole director and surgeon for approx 1 million people at a hospital in the Soddo region.)

Christmas greetings in the precious name of Jesus Christ!

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. Isaiah 9:2

What a privilege to be alive, healthy and enjoy the blessings of 2008 Christmas. God is expressing his love to each one of us thru his miraculous plan of Christmas. He accomplished his share of reconciliation by giving us the biggest gift we can ever think of. This gift of Christmas had eternal life hope richness and security in it. Who ever receives this gift of true Christmas has eternal hope. Let us unravel the parcel of the true Christmas gift. It has all what we need in it. What a privilege to receive this gift. We wish you all the blessings that have been planned for you before the foundation of the world.

This Is Where George is From - and Where His Mother Still Lives

SODO, Ethiopia (AFP) — Okume Ochubo's tiny plot of land in southern Ethiopia is lush with waist-high maize sprouts and other crops, but she and her seven young children are struggling to feed themselves.

"We cannot survive without food aid, we collect assistance whenever it is available," she said, as two of her children jostled under the shadows of giant eucalyptus trees.

"We are praying to God for a better situation," the 40-year-old farmer added, her voice barely audible under the breeze of swaying maize leaves.

Okume is one of millions of people in the Horn of Africa nation -- a country with a long history of extreme food shortages -- who are at renewed threat of hunger as a result of failed and delayed rains.

The British charity group Oxfam announced last week that the number of Ethiopians in need of emergency food aid had risen from 4.6 to 6.4 million since June, as rising food prices and drought continued to compound the crisis.

But in Wolaytta district, some 330 kilometres (200 miles) south of Addis Ababa, and most surrounding areas, it is a crisis of a different kind.

The region is known for its diverse crop varieties, and a recent downpour of rain since August has turned the valley into a sea of green.

But the area's apparent fertility is deceptive. Rains fell at the wrong time, reserves are dwindling and 50 percent of the area's two million inhabitants are facing what aid workers have labelled a "green famine".

Prior to that, not a single rain drop fell for eight months, leaving farmers with dwindling food reserves, while plunging the entire region into one of the worst droughts it has ever seen.

"It certainly is one of the worst in Wolaytta's history, probably third to 1984 after 2003," Abraham Asha, representative of the US-based charity group Concern, told AFP.

"Had it not been for the quick response of the government and NGOs, the disaster would not have been averted," he added.

At least a million people died in the 1984 famine, with the then dictator Haile Marian Mengistu accused of concentrating scarce resources on the lengthy conflict along the border with what is now Eritrea, and the 2003 crisis left 14 million Ethiopians in need of food assistance.

The current Ethiopian government under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been criticised for spending too much of its budget on the military and not enough on guaranteeing the basic needs of the population.

The authorities also expelled several aid groups operating in the Ogaden region, where government troops have since last year cracked down on a rebellion, further deepening an alarming humanitarian situation there.

At the height of the drought in April, Abraham said hundreds of children in several districts suffered from stunted growth and weight deficit.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said up to 12 percent were diagnosed with acute malnutrition in the area at that time.

Experts blame numerous factors for the chronic food insecurity behind the facade of green fields in Wolaytta and the rest of southern Ethiopia.

High population density of up to 800 people per square kilometre and a system of smallholdings have always exerted huge pressure on the land.

"Resources are being exhausted and population is increasing. The region has to take drastic measures such as voluntary resettlement to curb the burden," Abraham said.

Government officials on the other hand, are banking on high yields as a cure for the problem.

"In this district, productivity is far from satisfactory. Farmers here produce only 20 quintals of yield per hectare when other nearby zones produce up to 80," district administrator Hailebirhan Zena told participants in a recent meeting.

"We are focusing on increasing yields through irrigation. It is no secret that Wolaytta lies in proximity to several rivers," he said.

Despite the number of hungry Ethiopians doubling since April and aid agencies reporting a funding shortfall of 260 million dollars (190 million euros), chronic malnutrition has stabilised in the region.

Yet local residents remained pessimistic. The September harvest is thought to be enough to stave off starvation until December but unless reserves last until February, millions will be on the brink again.

"It will happen again as not enough stocks will last until then. It is even expected to be worse next year," Abraham said.

Aid organisations have warned that Ethiopia -- one of Africa's poorest countries and its second most populous -- on the brink of a major famine to that which killed millions in the 1980s.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twinning

I learned something new today. And, I have to humbly admit that it took quite a while for a certain concept to sink in - I am going to have artificial twins!

There is a great term floating around the international adoption scene; articifical twinning. Twinning is when you have two children who are less than 9 months apart in age who are not biological siblings. There is actually great debate over twinning -or so I have found out. So much so, several adoption agencies refuse to let parents twin and have implemented a 1 year wait between referrals.

My artificial twinning is happening purely by circumstances and not by intent. When Joe and I were discussing adoption, we always talked about a boy that would fit in age between our 2 biological boys (who are 9 and 3). Personally, I was hoping for a 4 year old, but God had something else in mind. We saw G's picture and he was listed as 5 or 6, and honestly, it crossed my mind that G would be closer to Isabel than the boys. That obviously, did not stop us from moving forwrad.

It wasn't until I recently posted on an adoption board that a woman replied, "Oh! You are entering the world of artificial twinning!"

At first I kinda felt queazy! What in the world is artificial twinning? After a little research, I discovered it in not nearly as gross as it sounds. And, I had to admit, if all goes through with the adoption of G, I will have twins! In fact, the latest paperwork indicates a March 2002 birthdate for G. Isabel...March 2002. These two could seriously be twins!

Isabel is "over the moon" thinking about suddenly being a twin and all the attention that comes with that. I am not too worried about her (I hope I am not being niave), because she already is used to sharing time, attention, love, and stuff. G, well, he has been an only child, and only recently has learned what it means to live with "siblings". It should be very interesting to see how these two very different children deal with being "twins".

The beautiful thing, is that many adoptive parents with artificial twins report nothing but normal sibling interactions coupled with a great bond due to being the same age and going through the same experiences. We have already talked about soccer teams, Sunday School classes, and getting driver's liscences at the exact same time. Oh, and sending two to college in the same year - yikes!

Again, I just can't let my mind go that far ahead of where we are. So, for tonight, I am going to dream about my twins (I think I secretly have always wanted twins!) and then wake up tomorow and wait for my court date.

I like learning something new every day!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

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The Death of Jesus

I highly recommend having a Bible-reading plan. When I don't, I tent to not read the Bible, simply as that. Joe and I did the Discipleship Journal reading plan about 5 years ago, and we both grew so much that we decided to do it again the next year. After that, we grumbled about "being burned out" and decdided to just do our respective studies we were involved in.

Well, I am back at it and felt so compelled to just start that I did not wait for the first of the year. I found myself in the middle of John, reading Habukuk, Nahum, Job and Revelation. So, I am getting lots and lots of prophetic warnings of not worshipiing idols or trusting in my own strength. Then I read in Revelation of the seals, bowls and trumpets. Each morning, I close with my readings from John and over the last two days I have been reading about the crucifiction.

What struck me this morning is how I am being led to read small bits at a time. Two days ago, I read about Jesus standing before Pilate and hearing the crowd chose Barabas. For a whole day, the sounds of the crowds turning on Jesus resonated in my mind.

Yesterday, I read about my Lord and Savior being beaten, mocked and having a crown of thrones forced onto his head. That whole day, I could not shake images that I had seen from The Passion of The Christ and to meditate on the tremendous amounts of pain and suffering that took place that day.

Today, I read about Jesus being thirsty, and drinking vinegar on the cross. Then, he died.

Everything in me wanted to just rush to the next section, when Christ is resurrected. But, my reading stopped there. My mind wanted to remind me that everything is OK, I know the rest of the story. But, I realized I need to stay in this place for a while.

Whenever I see that I am about to read about the death of Christ, I must admit that I balk a little. Like I said, I know the story, I know how it ends. Usually I race through it, not wanting to really let it sink in.

This year has been different. I am not sure why God put on my heart the need to start my reading plan now. I also don't know why in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I would be reading about the death of Christ and not his birth.

But, isn't that really what his birth is all about? It seems so anti-holiday spirit to look at this time of year and remember the WHY behind the birth of Jesus. He did not come to fill our homes with presents and cookies and songs of "Baby, It's Cold Outside". Jesus was born for one, single reason....to die for me. He was born so that he could be hung on a cross, a completely innocent man, for all the wrong that I have done. He came to teach me about God's immense love.

So, today, while the kids are opening their advent calendars and eating the chocolate treat, I will be thinking about the nails being driven into Jesus' hands. While the neighbors work on their holiday display, I will be seeing Jesus on a cross. While my family enjoys a delcious meal together, I will remember Jesus asking for a drink and being given vinegar. And when I lay myself down to sleep, I will wonder why God would let his son die for me.


My reading stopped there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What to Write about as I Wait?

I have struggled coming up with ideas of what to write lately. You see, I have no news. There are no updates, no real information coming in. Simply, we are waiting.

I was told, "Now you are entering the hardest part, the waiting.", and I laughed it off replying, "Yea, right! I have enough to keep me busy around here! I am not one of those parents with no children who are waiting for that first baby." Yet again, I have to admit I was totally wrong.

This is hard! I think the hardest part for me is that this adoption has stopped feeling real. When I was getting all the paperwork together and working hours a day, it seemed very real to me. I knew that I had to get certain documents in by a certain time in order to "get" G, the child we had chosen.

Ugh - it almost makes my skill crawl to write those words - the child the chose. It was very difficult to see a list of children and "pick" one. I wish that wasn't the case and Joe often says we should have let the agency chose for us. But, when I think of all the things that have lined up so perfectly, I start to realize that we did not chose G - but God chose G and our family to be together.

So, I think I will begin sharing what I am learning as an amazing pastor preaches each Sunday and as I read God's word. I do know that I am learning what it means to not be in control. I am learning to wait on God's perfect timing and in that waiting to not complain or grumble, but to trust in that perfect timing.

How often do we stress, worry, fret, complain and grumble as we pray to God, pleading for Him to act or move. Yet, He has heard our prayers, He has it all under control and He is simply waiting for all the factors to line up perfectly. I don't know why He asks us to wait; it could be an unstable force in Addis that would put Joe and I in danger, it may be a cab driver that needs the work, it could be a job that needs to be completed..I just can't say now. But, there will be a day when we can look back and know that God had us fly to Addis at just the right time to pick up our son.

Oh, I can't wait for that day when Joe and I walk through the doors of the foster home and run to hug our son. And then, I look with anticipation for the day we walk off the airplane and see our children after a long week in Africa, when we introduce our kids to their new brother!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Church

The church is not the building. Our pastor today said something that has been ringing in my ears all week; you must commit to the church so the church can commit to you. He was not talking about the building or a particular denomination, he was talking about the body, the people.

Over the last week, the church has blessed us in an amazing way. It humbles Joe and I greatly to see how God uses his people to show care for each other. In the last week, we were given 3 checks from our spiritual family and we now can pay for G's plane ride home!

As we struggle to come up with words that even come close to adequately sharing our thanks, we are reminded of how God provides when we trust Him. God is so good - all he time!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Advent

Every advent, I pull out the advent wreath that adorns our table, buy new candles to light and make a big deal about each Sunday when a new candle is lit. A few years ago, I bought an Advent activity book that gave me ideas of small, simple things to do with the kids each night of advent. Our family has truly come to appreciate the waiting.

Being totally honest here (which blogs can let us be), I never really understood the waiting. Of course, we knew how to wait 24 days until Christmas. But that was more about decorations, making cookies, what party we were going to this weekend, and of course, what presents the kids would want. It really wan't much waiting at all. I think about how my kids are pained as they say, "I can't wait until Christmas!" But the reality is that the entire month of December is fun - they get extra cookies and candy, we stay up later to watch TV specials, we take the kids around the city to see light displays, we fill our home with Christmas carols. They fill their waiting with distractions that are pretty fun!

But now, I feel I have a small taste of the longing and the waiting that the Israelites felt as they were waiting and waiting for a savior! Again, I emphasise that what I am experiencing is a fraction of what our ancestors felt, but, it is a longing and a waiting still the same. My waiting is not filled with fun distractions; in fact each morning I wake up praying, "Lord, let today be the day that we get a court date!" And each morning I check my email to find nothing.

While I am waiting to bring our son home, I am getting extremely annoyed with commercialism. I am sure you have heard about the trampling death of an eployee at Wal Mart - I shake my head and cry as I think of people being so desperate for a TV or an MP3 player or Guitar Hero that they were willing to trample over a man to his death. How far have we come?

I drive around town and still see crowds at the malls and Best Buy - despite hearing warnings of doom and gloom in the economy. And, I look at the faces of the shoppers and drivers - there is very little expectancy or joy. In fact, they seem to be pretty tired, pressured, and angry. I really don't like seeing what Christmas has become.

We need to get back to the advent - the waiting of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to look to the heavens with expectancy... longing. We are promsied such amazing things when that day comes:

"He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions
for the poor of the earth.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash arond his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them." Isaiah 11:3-6

I can only imagine when there will be a just judge - who sees not with his eyes or his ears, but judges with righteousness that comes from the Spirit. Christ will set all things right - there will be no more hunger, no more orphans, no more widows who are not cared for. The world will be right. Don't you long for that? Don't you want that?

Why aren't we looking expectantly for Chrit's return? Even Christians take this month to buy, buy, buy - and we have forgotten what it means to wait.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In The Waiting

Well, it has finally hit me that I will be waiting, and there is nothing I can do about it. I watched a special on TV last night by Feed the Children that spotlighted the condition of orphans in Kenya. I cried as I watched the abandoned babies being taken to an orphanage. But, then I started sobbing for my son.

This red tape, government stuff is driving me crazy! "They" sure make it difficult to adopt. My social worker asked us if we would consider another child (to round out our family - so I guess it would have to be a girl). Joe laughed and said, "If she is free." But that truly is the case! We are tapped out and are struggling to buy extended family Christmas presents, but yet we would gladly welcome another orphan into our house if we could.

It is funny what the world desires....stuff! I am sickened by the commercialism of our country, especially this year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not Worthy

I have been overcome lately with the feeling that I am incredibly unworthy to be part of this plan. God has been working mightily through this adoption process. We have continued to pray that God would open doors. But, God has been breaking down walls. I am amazed how far we are in such a short period of time. As I look back on the past few months, there were many times that our process should have been stalled but instead, things flew! So, I wonder why God chose me to be part of this plan and to show me how He works.

I am realizing how self-centered I have been my entire life. I am usually concerned with me, my family, my husband, my house, my school - I am sure you see the pattern there. But, now, I am seeing how much God loves this one little boy in Soddo, Ethiopia. God is "moving mountains" to take this boy out of an orphanage and bring him to America. And God saw something in our family that made Him chose us to be this boy's new family. Why?

I am far from the perfect mother! I yell too often, I am too impatient, I expect a lot out of my children, and I even long to be alone at times. I see other mothers who are much more patient, much more gentle, much more loving - why didn't God chose them? I have too much of my dad in me - I want to fight it out sometimes and I am quick to let anyone know what I am thinking. How is God going to use that in this adoption?

Our family is going through what appears to be a transition - many things seem to be up in the air. Job, home, school - all like juggling balls! Joe and I are trying to figure things out, but we know we can't change anything while we wait upon G to come home. What is God doing by throwing us these curve balls while we are juggling? I know I am being vague, but I need to be at this point.

What matters is that I know God is still asking us to trust Him one day at a time. I keep going back to "give us this day our daily bread". Asking God to meet my needs today and not worry about tomorrow. How many times does God mention in His word not to be anxious, not to worry about tomorrow, how to let tomorrow take care of itself? For God to mention it so many times, He must have known how much we (humans) would worry. I am trying to lay this burden of worry at His feet each day.

But that is when the feelings of unworthiness come flooding back in. I am anxious. I am worrying about tomorrow. I am STILL trying to do things on my own. So, why would He chose a prideful, stubborn, sinner of a woman? I don't know the answers.

I am humbled by my God who cares. That is all I know right now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Updates/What You Can Do

A few quick updates from earlier posts :

G now knows he is being adopted! Yea! We are preparing a family photo album to send to him, so he can start getting to know his new family.

G's medical reports showed a relatively clean bill of health. There were a few numbers out of the normal range, but after consulting with my dad (thanks Dad!), he said everything looks good - and G probably has a cold :)

Also, with a travel date coming soon (we pray), if you want to help in any way, we will be able to deliver some much needed things to the orphanages in Ethiopia. I just read an update from CWA that quoted a nanny (a woman who works in the orphanage) from G's orphanage saying, "We really need toys. The kids coming here have never had toys to play with. They have worked most of their young lives, helping by working. These kids need to learn what it means to play." So, keep your eye on those after-Christmas sales. If you can find a good deal on some toys, we will be packing up some huge boxes to take with us when we travel.

I am sure there will be other things you can donate. As we get closer to our travel date, I will post the other requested items.

Prayer Requests

I just got off the phone with my case worker from CWA. We celebrated the fact that our paperwork is progressing at lighting speed. Now, we are at the mercy of the court in Ethiopia.

Patricia (our case worker), asked me to pray for all the children stalled in the court system. Apparently, due to "national pride", the courts in Addis are stalling. There are dozens of children with families waiting who are just not moving through the court system. The Ethiopian people are starting to feel ashamed that they can't care for their vast number of orphans, so they are pressuring the court to slow down the adoptions. Yet, they still can't care for their orphans!

We agreed that part of this is a spiritual battle. The enemy does not want ONE child to be saved. We must overcome this atmosphere with prayer.

Please join me in praying for:
1. A December court date for us (I am going for it all!)
2. The court system in Ethiopia would open up and start moving - for the sake of the kids
3. Continued protection for G in his orphanage.
4. That Joe and I can both go to Ethiopia
5. Child care for our wonderful kids :)

Thank you all, for your continued prayers.

I-171H

Good news! Good news! On Saturday, my beloved got the mail and quickly came to me with a kiss and a shout, "We got it!"

We have officially received approval from the US government to adopt a child from a different country. This was the last piece of paper needed before our agency's office in Addis could submit our papers to the courts.

Once again, God is tearing down the walls! Our agency prepared us that our form would not show up until at least January. Instead, we got our form 2 weeks after getting fingerprinted. Praise God. We are witness to what God calls you to, He will provide!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Medical Reports and Court Delays

It has been an eventful Monday. Well, eventful for a family waiting on an adoption. This morning, I was emailed the latest medical report for G. Apparently, as soon as our completed dossier arrived at our adoption agency, they order a more detailed round of medical testing. I was emailed the results and then urged to take these to my pediatrician for review.

While I have scheduled an appointment, being a doctor's daughter, I decided I could decipher these blood work results on my own - ha! I did notice several things are out of the normal range, which are now causing some concern. G did prove negative (again) for HIV and Hep. B, which we are very thankful for. G appears to be anemic, which is not a surprise to me, nor much of a concern. I am hopeful that a few months of a healthy western diet full of meat and veggies will cure this. I am a little worried about one particular score, but am going to wait until I talk to my pediatrician before I let my mind wander too far.

On the other front, we have found out there is a delay in court in Ethiopia. There are only two people working for the Ministry of Women's Affairs who process the adoption requests. One of those two, just went on maternity leave and Ethiopia is not replacing her. So, it looks like our dreams of getting a court date quickly are a little unrealistic. We may be looking at a much longer wait. This is a bit discouraging.

I wonder what G is thinking. He has been videotaped, he has been sent for further medical testing, and they are preparing to move him to Addis. They have not told him about us, but I wonder if he is putting 2 and 2 together?

On a fun note - on G's medical report the doctor noted that G is a very bright boy! Oh, and the doctor wrote that he is 7 years old. I am starting to believe that the key to adopting internationally is the ability to be flexible.

If you are praying with us, keep it up. Despite the set back of knowing there is only one person scheduling court dates, I believe that this entire process is in God's hands and if He wants it to move quickly, it will.

So, we are starting to think about getting immunizations for our trip to Africa and getting the boys room set up. One sounds fun...the other, well, not so much.

Friday, November 21, 2008

We Have a New Social Worker

We have officially moved to a new phase in our adoption. We had a wonderful social worker from CWA who's single purpose was to assist with all the paperwork. She answered dozens of questions, encouraged me and seemed to know just when to send an email to keep me going.

Now, we have just been told we are getting a new social worker. This woman's focus in travel!!! Yipee! We will be talking on the phone on Tuesday and I can't wait to "meet" her. She read our dossier before it was flown to Ethiopia and so she knows a bit about us already.

Prayer request: pray that the I -171H form comes quickly!!! The dossier will not be sent to the courts in Ethiopia until this form is filed. The fingerprinting triggers this form, so now we are simply waiting. This is our hold-up right now, so we could really use that form to get to our house asap. Thank you, prayer warriors!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Discerning If We Should Ask for Help

Joe and I laid in bed and talked for hours the other night about one thing; should we ask for financial help. Some people have approached us and accused us of being prideful because we are not like "all the rest" who send out letters asking for support.

First of all, I don't think "all the rest" ask for help.

Beside that, we feel that God called us to this task. So far, He has provided. Does asking for help mean that we are no longer trusting in His provision?

Or, does asking for help give the great body known as the church the opportunity to serve one another?

We don't know the answer to that question. But, we did decide to not ask for help. Trusting the Lord is difficult business, sometimes.

We will continue to wait upon Him to meet our needs. Maybe we are learning what that really means - what constitutes a need. I think we have many wants that we disguise as needs simply based upon where we live. I look around and I could easily say, "My kids need another pair of shoes." Yet, in Africa, a child would be "rich" for owning A pair of shoes.

I am learning huge lessons through this adoption. I can only imagine how I will continue to be molded, pruned and sculpted as the years go by with our adopted son and our biological children! I am thankful to serve a God who cares enough about my character that He works at it constantly.

Trusting we will find a way to get to Ethiopia - both of us.

We Made it Through Washington, DC

I got the call yesterday, late morning. We made it through the US State Department and the Ethiopian Embassy in two working days. Did you hear that? Two working days to get through two government agencies!

God it so good!

Now, our "dossier with wings" is flying to Ethiopia! Start praying for a court date in 2008!! Why not shoot big? So far, God has blown open the doors, so I now starting to believe that we should pray for big things to happen!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh, If OnLy Our Kids Started Their Days Like This


School House Rocks 2 from For His Name on Vimeo.

Orphans from Lindsay Stahl on Vimeo.

Consider the Lillies

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Consider the lilies. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the lion!

from "In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day."

What You Can Do For Orphans

1. Plead with the Father for them.

  • Pray while waiting. Go online to find a listing of children who are waiting for a home (www.adoptuskids.org or www.rainbowkids.com). Print out a picture and description of a child and tape it to your dashboard. Every time you find yourself waiting—in traffic, at a stoplight, in the drive-through—pray for this child. Plead with the Father on his or her behalf.
  • Pray as a family. Cut and paste a picture of a child who needs a home to make bookmarks for your entire family. Commit as a family to pray for this child every time you open your book.
  • Pray as a church. Organize an evening prayer vigil on behalf of orphans and waiting children. Invite other churches to join you as well. You can pray for children all over the world or you can ask your local foster care office for pictures and names of children in your city to pray for.

2. Speak up for them.

  • In your wallet or purse, keep a picture of a child who needs a home. When you are visiting with other believers, pull out the picture and ask if they, or someone they know, would give this child a home.
  • Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate. These are people from all walks of life who volunteer their time to get to know children in foster care and speak to the court on their behalf. Visit www.nationalcasa.org for more details and to find an office near you.

3. Give them what they need.

  • Give an orphanage a washing machine, a crib, or a package of diapers. You can designate financial gifts to be used for an item of your choice to be given to an orphanage in the country of your choice. To learn more visit www.helporphans.org and click on the “Gift from the Heart” link in the slide show at the top of the page.
  • Organize a drive to collect school supplies or shoes in your church or Sunday school department. To learn more visit www.gainusa.org (click on “Projects”) or www.shoesfororphansouls.org.

4. Support those who support them.

  • Mow the lawn of a foster family, offer to babysit, or organize a few days worth of meals when a new child is placed in their home. And make sure you tell them often that you appreciate what they do.
  • Throw a shower for a family adopting an older child. Often showers aren’t thought of for adoptive families, especially when the adoption involves an older child. This will serve as a great encouragement to any adoptive family.
  • Sponsor a local child welfare social worker. Commit to praying for him or her and send gifts or notes of encouragement.

5. Provide them a safe place.

  • Consider becoming a foster parent or emergency foster parent (for short-term placements). Attend an inquiry meeting at your local foster care office to learn more.
  • Build an orphanage—it’s not as hard as it sounds. Visit www.worldorphans.org to learn how a gift of $4,000-8,000 can cover the building costs of a new orphanage in one of dozens of countries. These homes are built in conjunction with a local church. Consider raising this money as a small group, Sunday school class, or youth ministry.

6. Go visit them.

Go on a mission trip to an orphanage. You can go on a construction trip, a medical trip, or a trip to help conduct vacation Bible school. Taking your family on an orphanage mission trip can be life changing. Visit the following websites for more information:

www.gainusa.org

www.helporphans.org

www.hopechest.org

7. Give sacrificially to them.

  • Support reputable orphan care organizations on an ongoing basis.
  • Give financially to a family in the process of adoption. See www.shaohannahshope.com and www.lifeintl.org for more information about financial assistance for adoptive families.

8. Cheer them on

  • Sponsor a child. This includes both monthly financial support and a ministry of ongoing encouragement through letter writing. Visit www.hopechest.org or www.visiontrust.org for more information.
  • Over 20,000 teenagers a year “age out” of the U.S. foster care system with no place to call home. Call your local foster care office and let them know you have the desire to be a support for a child who is aging out of foster care.

9. Give them a forever family

You can give a child a home through international, domestic, or foster care adoption. To learn more about these three types of adoption call 1-800-FLTODAY to order a free booklet entitled Welcome Home: Eight Steps to Adoption. You can also download this resource, explore other information, and identify key adoption agencies at www.HopeForOrphans.com.

10. Mobilize your church for them.

Churches all over the country are making the decision to launch ministries expressly dedicated to the orphan and waiting child. The impact has been remarkable. To learn more about how you can be the catalyst in your church for a sustained orphans ministry, visit www.shaohannahshope.org or www.HopeForOrphans.com.

God is not looking to you to solve the problem. You are only to be faithful to do what He is asking you do. These ten things represent steps of faithfulness ... some small, some big. But whatever you do, remember this promise in His Word:

And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:10-11

This Week's Update

I have closed a chapter in this book called Adoption. On Wednesday, I carried my dossier into the Fed Ex office. The dossier that I have spent countless hours working on, the dossier I have cried over, the dossier I have poured my life into the past 60 days. I carried this work in a green folder knowing this would be our last moment together.

I am trying to be over dramatic here, but it truly was a defining moment in this process. Sending the dossier off in the Fed Ex envelope means I no longer have anything to do. I have accomplished all I was asked to do and now I enter the waiting game. For a control freak, that is a very scary moment. I am now trusting Fed Ex to get it to Washington, DC in one piece (which it already has - I checked :)). I am trusting the woman I hired as my courier to hand deliver it to both the US State Department and the Embassy of Ethiopia. I am then trusting her to get it back into the hands of Fed Ex to send it to my adoption agency. I am again trusting Fed Ex to get it there in one piece. Then, I am trusting the adoption agency gets it to Ethiopia. Then trusting the courts in Ethiopia..oh, and trusting the G's mom will indeed show up in court and relinquish all her rights.

Ultimately, I know I am not trusting in any of these things, but that my trust is placed in a much higher source - the Lord, our God, who sits enthroned about the circle of the Earth. So far, He has opened every door and caused the process to move at lightening speed. I am confident that he continues to hold this adoption (and the paperwork) in His hands.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dossier Joy!

I have to laugh when I look back at my October posts and see my dossier panic attack :) Thanks to wonderful advice, I tackled each document one at a time. Last Friday I sent copies of my dossier to my adoption agency, CWA, for review. Yesterday, I got the email I was waiting for. It read, "Congratulations! Your dossier looks perfect."

The next step is waiting for a form that comes from CWA that I add to my dossier. My case worker promised to over-night it. After I add it to the pile, the dossier flies to Washington, DC. I will hire a courier service to hand deliver it (highly recommended) to the correct government agency. After the US government authenticates our dossier, they take it over the the Ethiopian embassy for the Ethiopian authentication and translation.

Once that is done, the dossier is flown to Addis Ababba, Ethiopia!

Please join us in praying that the dossier arrives to all it's locations intact.

Please join us in praying that the authentication process goes smoothly and quickly.

Please join us in praying that the dossier gets translated quickly and accurately.

Please join us in praying that the judges set a court date before the end of the year.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I've Heard Him!

We received a DVD yesterday from our adoption agency of our son - and I noticed another way to spell his name! We are sure what we will name him, but we still go back and forth about the official name on his birth certificate for the United States.

I was in the middle of Bible study at my house when I saw the postal worker drop off an envelope that I just new had the DVD in it. I waited and waited and as soon as Bible study was over, I pounced on it. The kids were hungry, so lunch came first. But I grabbed my wrap and went down the the living room where our DVD player is. After popping in the video, I realized it was pointless to have brought my food down - I was no longer interested in eating.

The video opens with a song being sung in Amheric (I am guessing) and spans of the orphanage and surrounding countryside. From the orphanage, you can see majestic mountains! The orphanage is painted blue and while and looks very clean. The camera goes through each room and I see a kitchen, a dining area and many bedrooms. In the infant room, there is a tiny baby lying on a changing table - all alone.

We move into the bedroom for the older kids and there are 10 bunk beds crammed into a small room. Obviously all that is done in that room is sleep, there simply is no more room for anything else. Again, it is clean and simple.

Suddenly the screen is filled with his face - smiling from ear to ear. Isabel noticed he is always wearing this simple string necklace and I wonder if it is from his mother. The frame freezes and his vital stats stream across the screen. Then, we are in a room where he is standing and leading some other children in flash cards. I hear his voice!

"A. A for apple," and the kids shout very exuberantly "A. A for apple!"

"B. B for ball." Again, he kids echo.

"C. C for carrot." Yet, I notice the card does not have a carrot on it, instead it is green celery. We'll have to work on that one when he gets home.

He goes on until "G. G for giraffe, " with the enthusiastic children answering in their sing-song way.

I simple was breathless. Suddenly he became so real, with a voice that sounds so beautiful.

The video goes on to show him dribbling a ball - Lincoln gets so upset here because it happens to be a soccer ball and not a basket ball! I immediately think this is perfect - a buddy to play ball with Lincoln.

Next comes some quiet play with Legos - and let me tell you, that boy is serious about his Legos. Again, a huge blessing considering Harry is never far from his Lego sets.

We watch several children cram around a small dinner table and pray before they are handed a small bowl of what looks like macaroni and cheese. Our son looks up into the camera and smiles. We have been told he loves food.

Finally, we see him in his bed. What makes me a little sad is no sheet and no blanket.

Overall, our son looks happy! Honestly, he looks like any other 6 year old boy should look. He looks healthy and he is learning English.

Isabel watched with me and summed it up perfectly. "Why can't we just go get him now?"

Monday, November 3, 2008

We Keep Moving Along

It is time for a general update. When I look back, it astonishes me that we made this decision on August 10th, and we have done so much in such a short period of time. Remind me of that when I begin to get impatient again - like I am sure to do.

This past week was a big one for us. In this week, we were able to get our home study reviewed by our adoption agency, and then pick up our signed, notarized copies of the home study and other various documents.

On Friday, I loaded the kids into the mini-van and pointed the car west - toward Madison. The day was beautiful, those fall days of clear blue skies and lots of sunshine, the fall colors are still hanging on to the trees and it was warm. I had everything I needed; every document had been signed and notarized. Every document was in the precise order and matched up with the cover letter. We popped in a CD and sang songs all the way to the capital. We even found parking right away!

After grabbing a bag of popcorn for the kids to much on, we found the building that housed the Secretary of State and headed to the 10th floor. It was a relatively small office, across the street from the capital building. This office had an amazing view of the lake (?) that is right in the middle of Madison from one bank of windows, and the other set of windows graced the view of the capital from 10 floors up in the sky. I was enjoying those two views, the kids were sitting quietly (!!!!!) eating their popcorn and looking at books when I noticed the official looking over my documents was stuck on the first page.

The pit hit my stomach then. I knew something was wrong.

"Well, your notary on this cover page did not write her statement."

"Statement? What does that mean?"

She slid a piece of purple paper my way with several examples of these mystery statements. "Every notary should know they need to write a statement. How many documents did this particular notary do?" She began to leaf through my huge dossier and noticed that this notary had not written her statement on more than half of my documents.

I was sunk.

"You need to go back to Milwaukee and have her fix these."

The tears began to well up in my eyes. I was NOT going to cry; I refused. I would stay in control and find out everything I needed to get this done correctly. At this point I was already preparing the talk to the kids about our need to miss trick or treating because Mommy would need to go back to Milwaukee and then back to Madison today. But, I noticed that this woman was still hanging on to my dossier; I wondered why.

Quietly, I grabbed my cell phone from my purse and called Joe and asked him if our notary was in the office. She was, so I told him to tell her I would be driving straight there and I needed her to fix these notaries. I think the woman heard me making my plans and as she looked at my tear filled eyes, my four children sitting angelically (!!!!) at the table, the sun shining and the birds chirping outside....well, you get the picture. She chose mercy.

"Listen. I will authenticate these. But you have to promise to go straight to your notary and have these fixed."

"Thank you! Thank you! I promise! Believe me, there is nothing more important right now."

So, she took my dossier and attached this very pretty, official looking piece of paper (purple, again) with a gorgeous gold seal that said everything in this dossier is true and accurate according to the state of Wisconsin.

It was then that I noticed the bulletin board by the door. Covering the board were letters of thanks accompanied with pictures of hundreds of internationally adopted children. This office obviously has been putting orphaned children first for many, many years. I paused to read some of the letters, and time and time again, this office has show mercy on families who needed something done right away, or needed to change a date or a name, or when a family needed to update the child's information.

I couldn't help but call out to God as we got back into our mini-van with praise and adoration. God showed me in that one illustration of grace and mercy how much HE is in this! I had been bemoaning the policy in Wisconsin that said the Secretary of State needed to see the entire dossier - most other states only verify the cover letter. I was irritated that I was going to have to drive my precious dossier to Madison just to have someone I didn't know put some fancy seal on my paperwork. But, this was all in God's plan! If I only had to send in my cover letter, dozens of other documents would have been done wrong! God made sure I had each and every document reviewed by the state in order to make sure it was all done correctly. God also gave me a glimpse of His mercy when I did not get what I deserved. I deserved to go back to Milwaukee and get all these done correctly. I deserved to be turned away. But, there was mercy, and I was given much more than I deserved.

Before we left Madison, I had to take the kids into the capital. We plopped ourselves right under the rotunda and stared at the impressive artwork that surrounded us. It is simply breathtaking. Most of us understood what had just happened. The two older kids were amazed and thankful, as well. It was in this spirit that we looked at this beautiful display. Memories of our fight in Madison earlier this year to save our school also came flooding back. Quietly, the kids talked about that day in January, how we met so many people and made a difference in our state. Again, God was proving to us how much He is involved in our lives. He does always provide.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur; racing back to Joe's work to get our notary to fix all the missing statements (for the record, she felt horrible and had offered to drive to Madison to meet me. I don't think she will forget her statement ever again!), then off to Kinkos to make multiple copies and send two sets to my adoption agency. They are supposed to get it this morning!

On Saturday, we were surprised with yet another glimpse of the power of God in this process. We had to submit our home study to the INS. That was done 2 weeks ago. The INS then schedules fingerprinting that is analyzed by the FBI. The fingerprinting schedule usually takes 2 months (we were told). We got our letter telling us our scheduled day for fingerprinting on Saturday! 2 weeks! We get fingerprinted next week and then wait for the all-important 171 form that says we are cleared through the US government.

If anyone has doubted whether or not this is God's will, I hope they take the time to see how much God has been moving. We prayed over and over again that if this was God's will that He would either close doors or He would open doors. Very simple. Look at all the doors that continue to fly open!

When I think of bringing George home, my heart leaps! The kids are also starting to get excited as we begin to think about the big question that looms on the horizon - who will watch our kids when we go to Ethiopia??? Please join me in praying for that. We are a little stressed about this and need the Lord's guidance and provision. But, I do take comfort in knowing that He will make a way, as He has every step of the way thus far.

I love the LORD!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

photograph of a typical Ethiopian house, from the Awassa and Wolaitta regions of Ethiopia

Righteous Anger

I am a huge fan of Sons of Korah. If you don't know who they are, I suggest you google them. They are an Australian band committed to putting the Psalms to music. When you listen to the Psalms, they will never be the same for you, as they will never be the same for my family. These words were written with and for music, so it is fitting that they are once again accompanied by song.

A few Sunday's ago, my husband picked up their latest CD, Rain. As I have sat in my kitchen, Bible on the table, I have again been transformed into a state of pure worship through the music. Once and a while there are those Psalms that you wonder if they will ever mean anything to you - Psalms that talk about being pursued by enemies, begging God to kill those who are after me. I understand the context; David was being chased by Saul who was intent on killing David. David had been anointed and thought God had chosen him to be king, yet the current king was dead-set on destroying him. Of course Davide called out in anguish asking God to rescue him! Honestly, I just struggle how that could possibly relate to a middle aged mom in suburbia Wisconsin!

That was true, until a run a few days ago. I had downloaded Focus on The Family where a woman was being interviewed about her new book, Home Invasion. In it, the author argues that our homes are being invaded by smut, porn, greed, lust, etc. We haven't gone out looking for it, but it is truly invading our homes through all the mediums we all know about. It dawned on me that as a mother, I have an enemy that is pursuing me and is bent on the destruction of my children! Suddenly, those Psalms had a totally appropriate meaning.

So, on this latest CD from Sons of Korah, one of those Psalms began to resonate with me. Please read these words and put up with my interpretations:

Psalm 3

LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
"God will not deliver him."

But, you are a shield around me,
O LORD;
You bestow glory on me and lift
up my head.
To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again because the LORD sustains me,
I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.

Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessings be on your people.


I read these words and I see my own home invasion. We live in a world where our foes are all around us; television is corrupt and pushing the envelope with every new show. Even the commercials show things that make my children run away. There are very few movies that don't have over-the-top sex, vulgar language, violence, or chaos. Songs on the radio now talk about drugs, sex, lying, cheating very clearly and even lift those behavior high to be valued. I drive down the street and pass a cab that has an advertisement for a strip club. We drive down the highway on the way to the beach and see billboards for wet-t-shirt contests. We go to the library and see the latest book about gay marriage being read at story-time.

You tell me! How is a mother supposed to raise her children to be pure, innocent, loving, kind and respectful people!!!

When I cry out to the Lord, He hears me and is my shield! He DOES protect my children. He shields their eyes and ears; it is amazing how they can miss something that I see so blatantly.

But, I am still angry! I am angry at this world that for some reason seems to take delight in causing children to "grow up" earlier and earlier! I am furious at the internet that has no regulations - and that there are sick adults out there who enjoy thinking about ways to "trick" a child into seeing his pornographic images. I am furious at the adults who can't get enough sex, and they think kids should be the same way. I am furious at movies and TV that portray life as one big thrill ride, where we need to try to satisfy our lusts at every turn. I am furious at movies that TV that destroy human life so easily and thoughtlessly. I am furious that the top video games give kids the chance to kill others in the most disgusting, graphic ways.

Lord - I am begging you! Strike down those corrupt ones! Break the teeth of all the wicked people in this world who want to see children hurting, scared, sexualized, and not caring of anything but themselves.

The ONLY place where I can find refuge is in the LORD. The ONLY one that will deliver me and my children is the LORD. Lord, may your blessings fall on us, despite this world we live in. Continue to be my shield. I will continue to trust in you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I've Been Tagged

[Tagged.jpg]

I've been tagged! OK - so here are the 7 random facts about myself :)

1. I have broken many bones in my life; arm, clavicle, multiple fingers, a toe, my nose - all from playing sports.

2. I have given birth 4 times naturally, and loved it!

3. I really, really like chocolate and I tend to hide a stash so I can snack on it anytime I want without my family knowing.

4. I have lived in Ohio, South Carolina, California and presently in Wisconsin.

5. When I fly to Ethiopia to get our son, it will be the first time I will ever leave the United States.

6. I love riding on the back of my husband's motorcycle and hope to ride on my own someday.

7. I never, ever, ever thought I would homeschool my kids and yet, here I sit with my four kids every day, teaching them!

Since I am totally new at this blogging thing, I only have a few people to tag:
1. Eleanor
2. Harry
3. Julie

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Daughter's Blog

I read my oldest daughter's blog this morning. She praises God for George and how her parents have a heart for adoption. It was a beautiful thing to read this morning. Who knows the plans God has for her life!!!

Where Is My Homestudy?

I am getting a little anxious. As a member of two different forums that focus on adoption from Ethiopia, I read daily the experiences and frustrations of so many families just like mine. The latest news? The Ethiopian government has added paperwork for children who are social orphans (meaning one or both parents are still alive). That would be the case for our son.

George's father passed away from Malaria in 2007. His mother has AIDS and lives below the poverty line. She simply can not care for her son, so she relinquished him to a Christian orphanage. She has not had any contact with him since she dropped him off in February 2008. George is an orphan; alone and with no parent to care for him.

But now, our process may be significantly delayed because of this new paperwork. The government already has a system in place for social orphans that requires a living relative to appear before the court in Addis Ababa and officially relinquish all rights. I know that my adoption agency is working with George's mother about getting her to Addis Abab - a 7 hour drive!

On top of this bit of not-so-good news, my home study is not done! My social worker said it would be done last Thursday, so I am looking at one week late. I shouldn't complain - but until we get the home study sent to the FBI, we don't get fingerprinted. Until we get fingerprinted, we don't get our crucial piece of paper from the USA government that says we can adopt. Until we get that piece of paper, we can't get Power of Attorney. Until we get power of attorney, we can't send the dossier to Ethiopia. Which means, George continues to sit in a rural orphanage in southern Ethiopia.

Kind parents who have adopted already are quick to respond about God's timing. We must trust that there are reasons for delays; some say the kids are not 'ready' yet, some say the governments are not 'ready' yet, some even say we are not 'ready' yet. None of those reasons sound good to me these days, but if I truly think and believe that God is in control, that he is God Jehova, I have to trust in this timing.

This morning, in my quiet time, I was looking at a certain Psalm for a study I am doing. I was reading in my study Bible, and right before that Psalm, there was a chart that said, "If you need......... look at Psalm.....". As I read down the list I found one that I thought would speak to me. "If you need to know God is in control, look at Psalm 146". As I read, I was nodding my head about how we can't put our trust in man, for they cannot save and all their plans end up coming to nothing in the end. But, it goes on to say happy is he who puts his hope in the Lord (am I getting a theme here, or what?), the maker of everything, the One who holds it all in his hands. Then, I read verse 9 and literally, my breath was taken away:
"The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow..."

As I mediate on this part of the verse, I can not help by KNOW that God is in control for He continues to speak to me. And He is watching over George (the fatherless) and his mother (the widow). He is with them, He sustains them, He gives them sight, He lifts them up, He loves them and He is watching them. They are His children.

Thus far, God has brought me into George and his mother's lives. What His finger points to , His hand will provide.

So, my home study is not quite done. I can't control that. But I am confident that God has pointed me toward adoption, specifically in Ethiopia. So, I know that He will provide the way and the perfect time for our family to add a son.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Running Exchange

I have developed a love of running. When I was in high school, busy playing every sport I could that included a ball, I would make fun of my friends who were involved in track or cross country. "Why do you want to just run and not try to score a basket or hit a home run?", I wondered.

But, as a middle aged mom of 4, finding ways to play my much-loved sports has been a challenge. What I have been able to do is run. And running has taken a new place in my heart.

That is my time during the day where I am alone. Alone with my thoughts or alone with some music or alone with some biblical teaching (thank you iPod and and iTunes!). Either way, it is a time where I am out in the beauty of the world, feet pounding on the pavement, feeling my muscles getting stronger and my lungs filling with clean air. I love it!

My course is pretty boring - but I don't mind. I have a neighbor who giggles at me each time I set out because she knows she will see me 12 times going around the same block. But, I have 4 children at home and I have to pass by my house every few minutes just to make sure they are all doing OK. In the beginning, they used to stare out the front window, waiting for mom's next loop. Now, they play, do school work or take some free time to do what they wish. Either way, I don't mind, I just want to run.

As I run, I now have visions of George running beside me some day. I know many parents who have adopted from Ethiopia who have had their hearts suddenly turned to distant running. I was inspired by the Olympics, seeing the amazing dark-skinned men and women race to the finish of multiple long distance races. These same athletes, when they walked into the opening ceremony looked stunned, thrilled, humble and truly blessed to be there. Immediately, I started rooting for them to "win it all"! I do think of George most of the time when I run. Will he enjoy running? Will he want to come out with me to just feel those legs getting stronger? Will this be a way we can bond?

My runs are filled with prayer. As I run, this is one hour in which I am not disrupted at all - except for the occasional dog barking at me. I am very aware of how God created me and am so thankful that He made me able to do this. A friend's son recently lost a leg, so I don't take one single day for granted that I can put on shoes and hit the road for a run. Lately, I have been awed at the beauty surrounding me (even on 62nd Street). The leaves changing color, the cool breezes, the warm sun, the blue sky - it's all breathtaking when we take some time to really focus on it. It's funny how running can cause me to slow down enough to really look at a tree.

I looked up verses in the Bible that had the word "run" today in my quiet time. I was drawn to Isaiah 40:28-31 - I am sure this is very familiar to a lot of you.
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tried or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. The will soar on the wings like eagles; the will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Do you see? God, the everlasting, the Creator, never - ever grows tired or weary! Never! As I struggle with the weariness that comes from day to day life, I serve a master who never grows weary. As I run to the point where my legs burn, and my lungs feel like they are going to explode, and in my head I scream how tired I am, I focus on the Lord who never grows tired. We simply can not understand that - because despite how strong and healthy we may be, our bodies are incredibly fragile and could "snap" at any moment. But God will never tire, and we just can't wrap our finite minds around that thought. You mean, he never needs to rest or sleep? Nope!

So, this same amazing God who never tires or grows weary can give us that strength! We can soar, run and walk without growing faint or weary! What do we have to do to get this strength? The Bible says "hope in the Lord". Trust in Him; hand over all my control, all my self-sufficiency, all my independence. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; renew here actually means "exchange". We who trust in Him, give him our lives, will exchange our weakness for His strength. It is no longer me who gets through the day. It is no longer me who accomplishes anything - it is the LORD!

I have been lamenting for several weeks asking God, "What does it really mean to trust you? I have been saying I trust you. I have been wondering, though, what does that practically look like in my day to day living! Show me!" What started out as a blog about running has turned into a lesson to me about trusting. It's funny how God speaks to me sometimes. I like the idea of exchanging my attempts, my efforts, my tries for His assurance, His promises, His faithfulness.

I may not win any earthly races, especially as I grow older, but I WILL run to win the race that truly counts. I will exchange my weaknesses for God's strength.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Learning Some Big Lessons

I hate waiting. I have always hated waiting. My parents often accused my of being impatient. Even worse, I tend to have the personality that says, "I will do it by myself!". Which makes the phase I am currently in with the adoption so incredibly difficult.

I have to wait. I have to wait on reference letters. I have to wait on my social worker to finish the home study. I have to wait on Wisoconsin's Secretary of State. I have to keep waiting for George.

I added a clock that shows the time in Addis Abab, Ethiopia. I see that as I write this, it is nearing 6:00pm. George is having dinner, maybe? When I let my imagination wanders to George and what he is doing, I tend to get even more impatient. I have been putting a hedge up around my heart that continues to remind me that all this could fall apart, so don't get too close. But, I still want my son home.

It is so hard for me to look at the pictures we have of George. Everything right now is about paperwork; dotting all the "i"s and crossing all the "t"s.

So, what am I learning through all this?

God's timing is perfect. Our process has not taken long compared to the many, many families who have to wait years for a referral. I look at how the doors have opened so easily thus far and know that God is in charge of this - especially the timing. I have to trust that He is still working on the perfect timing of this. What is so hard is watching our economy fall apart which causes us to feel a sense of urgency - we need to make that final payment before we have nothing left to pay with!

Please, Lord, cause this to all work out. Continue to hold me close to you so I keep my eyes on You! I pray for the practical things, Lord. May the money we need be there. May all the paperwork be completed soon. May the Ethiopian government approve us. May we bring George home in Your perfect timing.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Words of the Song Say It All

"If We Are The Body" by Casting Crowns

It's crowded in worship today

As she slips in trying to fade into the faces

The girl's teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know, Farther than they know

But if we are the body

Why aren't His arms reaching?

Why aren't His hands healing?

Why aren't His words teaching?

And if we are the body

Why aren't His feet going?

Why is His love not showing them there is a way?There is a way

A traveler is far away from home

He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row

The weight of their judgemental glances

Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

Jesus payed much too high a price

For us to pick and choose who should come

And we are the body of Christ

Jesus is the way

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Adopt-a-Child-Diet

Lately, the pounds seem to be falling off! Joe and I have worked hard over the last two years to get our bodies back to a very healthy state. That has meant a diet program that taught us how to control our portion size and teach us what we can and shouldn't eat. It worked really well, but we are not on that diet anymore and I am watching a pound a week still falling off.

I chalked it up to the extra running I have been doing. But, that extra running usually causes me to eat even more (which I have been doing!). I wasn't sure what the secret was.. until I read a fellow soon-to-adopt parent's blog. She said, "Wow! I have lost 10 pounds since we started this adoption process!" She talked about the stress, the many times a day she finds her stomach in knots, how she would stare at her dinner plate and wonder what her child in an African orphanage was eating - or not eating. It felt like I was reading a blog about myself.

I do find myself with knots in my stomach multiple times a day; did I fill out that form correctly, is there one more form I need to mail in right now, how are we going to pay for that adoption class coming up? I stress about getting all my paperwork in quickly, because we really want to get this phase over. I stress about doing everything perfectly, so we won't have to do anything twice. I stress about my biological children, making sure I talk to them about how they are feeling through all of this. And then, I do stare at my dinner plate, filled to the brim with fresh vegetables, good meats, and rich sauces. I think of George as he sits down to a woefully simple meal of what American's would call mush. He eats it all, but is not filled and probably goes to bed every night hungry. Yet, at the end or our dinner, I am pushing handfuls of food down the disposal because my kids won't eat leftovers.

It is funny to say this is a good way to diet. But, there is some truth in that. But, most importantly, through this entire experience so far, I am learning what it means to feast on God's Word to sustain me.

I want to change. I want to pray for the world more. I want to have a bigger heart for the children of the world who are lost and hurting. I want to be colorblind. It in ONLY through Christ in me that I can even begin to be the things He has called me to be. May we all continue to learn to lean on Him.

A Sad, Rainy Sunday

It was a cold, rainy Sunday in Wisconsin yesterday. It was also very sad. Our beloved Brewers were eliminated from the play-offs after 26 years of not playing any post-season baseball. Maybe that loss put a pall over the house. Maybe it was just a drab, dreary day. I'm not sure the cause, but by the end of the night I was questioning whether or not I could handle another child in our home.

The girls were up in their bedroom bickering, as usual. Harry was grumbling about something, anything. Lincoln was throwing a fit on the living room floor because I moved a cup. I looked at my husband, sighed, and said, "Maybe I am not fit to parent another child."

This was not a pity party, this was not self-deprecation. This truly was a tired, frustrated mother of four who wonders if I am doing anything right with the children God has given me. The hard part of parenting is that we just won't know if we did a "good job" until our children are grown and out of the house. Until that point, our job is to continue to mold, direct, correct, guide, teach, discipline....oh, and love!

I wonder how things are going to change when George is here. I wonder if his reaction to the waste of food in our house will affect the other four, who have never wanted for a meal in their entire lives. I wonder if when George can speak English and tells us about his life in rural Ethiopia, where his mother had to walk 15km to the nearest water source, how the others will respond. George, undoubtedly, will bring stories of heart ache, difficulties and mourning, of things the other children have never seen or experienced. I wonder what that perspective will bring to our family?

I love being a parent, don't get me wrong. It really was just the end of the day, we were all tired and it had been raining all day. And, the Brewers lost.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Learning What it Really Means to Trust

Turn on the news. Open a newspaper. Talk to a neighbor. What is all the news about? The economy. I have heard words like, "disaster", "catastrophe", "another Great Depression" being bounced around and I have to admit that my heart starts pounding a bit faster each time I hear the experts discussing the future of our country's economy.

Three months ago I would not have been nearly as nervous. About six years ago, God gave my husband and I a huge wake-up call. We had been living a pretty self-centered, extravagant life in California. We were spending money like it "grew on trees". But, through a merciful and gracious God, we were led away from California and back to the midwest where we learned to walk with Him.

I tell everyone that once we landed a job in Wisconsin, God gave us just enough salary to pay the bills and feed the family. I know that is how so many people live their entire lives - but we were coming off a huge salary where we had a lot extra. It took a while to become used to living this way. I remember being very resentful to God, questioning why we had to be staring at a bank account with $4.12 at the end of a two week pay period, wondering how I was going to buy formula for my new baby. But, God was faithful. Not only did He always provide all that we needed (someone who was breastfeeding would happen to get a free can of formula and bring it over at just the right time), He taught us how to be content.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hunger, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives my strength." (Phlp. 4:11-13) I remember reading this not long after we had moved to Wisconsin and being blown away. I was living that life right then and there and I had a choice to be content! Paul didn't say, "I am working on being content" - no, he said, "I am content". Not long after that, I heard a sermon by Jill Briscoe on this same subject and she taught that we are all given a contentment teacher. There is something in each and every one of our lives that is working to teach us contentment. I cried as I looked around my house that had drafty windows, a leaky faucet, a shower that only puts out scalding hot water, a basement with horrible carpet - oh the list just went on and one. But this was my teacher! I needed to BE CONTENT no matter what my circumstances were.

I remember the moment when I decided to be content - it was as if a huge burden was lifted off my back. In that same moment I realized the sovereignty of God. He is in control. He is still sitting on His throne. He had my life in the palm of His hands! It was much easier to be content knowing that He was in control of my life.

So, we made big decisions to simply our lives. We pared down the amount of toys greatly! We looked around at the piles and piles of THINGS and decided our kids really only needed 5 or 6 toys each. Then, we went through their clothes. It was just crazy of me to think that they had "nothing to wear"! Each one of them had about 30 - 40 tops, dozens of jeans and pants, and countless numbers of sweatshirts. We cut it all down to 10 each (just in case I can't get to the laundry for a week). Then we walked through the house and chose some furniture to donate - a futon, an oversized chair, a bed frame, some tables; things that were just taking up space. I packed up the china and extra pots and pans and stored them in our basement.

At the same time we started living the Dave Ramsey way :) We got rid of all credit cards (except for Joe's work ones), and we started eating "rice and beans" in order to build up an emergency fund. We bought used cars that we could pay cash for and we eliminated all our debt. If we didn't have the cash to do something, we didn't do it. Believe me, my kids get tired of hearing me say, "We don't have the money to do that right now", but it is so liberating to not have a stack of bills arrive in the mailbox each month.

So, we have worked hard to simplify our lives and to live debt free. And we saved. We saved enough to adopt a child from Ethiopia! We were so sure that God was leading us on this path - we kept praying that God would close the doors if this was not His will. But, doors kept opening and signs were all around us (and continue to be there!).

But I can't help from panicking when I hear all the doom and gloom about the economy. What if we bring George home and Joe loses his job? How are we going to feed 5 children? How will I clothe them all for the cold Wisconsin winters? Will we have enough money to continue to educate our children? What if we lose all Joe's retirement money? We are literally emptying our savings account to do this! Is this really what God wants us to do on the brink of a collapsing economy?

It is easy for me to get swallowed up in the ocean of anxiety.

God's Word keeps ringing through, like a bell you can hear above the roar of the ocean waves. He is saying, "I have taught you how to pray in times like these. It may not be the answer YOU want to hear, but it is in my Word."

"Lord, teach us to pray."

He said to them, "When you pray say: Abba Father, Daddy. Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil." (The Message)

So simple - keep us alive with what we need today. Give us this day our daily bread. Provide for us today. Don't worry about tomorrow because you are not even guaranteed a tomorrow!

I am so thankful for God's word because his promises flood my mind as I write this. He is faithful! And what He calls us to - He will see us through.

I have no idea how this is all going to turn out - will we be in the next great depression soon? Will we find ourselves struggling each day like my grandparents did in the 30s? I just can't answer those questions - so I will chose not to worry about them.

I do know that God has called our family to bring George home. I will trust that God will provide a way for that to happen.

But......that is so hard.