Monday, November 30, 2009

A Few Pictures from Thanksgiving




When Joe and I lived in California, we spent all of our Thanksgivings with my second cousin and his girlfriend. Every year, we would put the turkey in the oven and then head out for a walk in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On those walks, my cousin would stop and pick dried flowers here or dead branches there, and when we would get back home, he would disappear into his work room to put a creation together. Joe and I have continued this tradition, and although we are no longer trekking through some amazing foothill landscape, we do get out and enjoy the beauty of wherever we are. Following in my cousin's footsteps, here is my centerpiece this year.....


After our walk, the kids played some fun games





We had a delicious meal and especially enjoyed reading the entries from our Thankful Box this year.



George had a great time! He LOVED the turkey and all the fixings. It was a great way to introduce him to Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Oh no! Gunnar just ate the turkey!"

That is how Thanksgiving 2009 will always be remembered by...the year Gunnar got into the turkey and ate half of it. Yes, we left last night to dine out, after all, I had been cooking and cleaning all day - that and doing crafts with the kids. We decided to leave Gunnar inside, it was cold and rainy with the chance of snow starting. He was very contentedly sleeping as we snuck out.

When we got home, Isabel was the first one in the door, always eager to greet her beloved puppy. She ran to the garage door to meet me and said these words, "Oh no! Gunnar just ate the turkey!" I looked around and the floor was covered with blood from the turkey, chunks of raw turkey were scattered about and there was the half eaten carcass. Gross!

I run to Joe saying "I've got to run to Walmart and get another turkey! It will take forever for it to thaw and our plans are not ruined. I've got to go now! Eleanor, jump in the car. Let's go!"

About half-way there my car suddenly stalled on me, frighteningly just as I was crossing the train tracks. I was able to get the car off the tracks and off the side of the road. Yup, I had run out of gas...the FIRST time in my life! I have been driving for almost 23 years and up until last night I have never let that happen.

So there we are, sitting in the cold rain/snow, very late at night. I called home and timidly told Joe that I had just ran the car dry and I needed him to come bring some gas to us. Sigh.

Harry later said, "This is the stuff movies are made of."

So, our plans are delayed a few hours, and I discovered that my Suburban can't get to E (I could drive my mini-van a little past the E). But, we are together and after a wonderful morning of egg-bake and cinnamon rolls, we are about to go on a family walk to collect things for a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Funny, I was just listening to the radio yesterday and heard a woman talking about finding joy in the things that wouldn't typically bring joy. And I had an immediate chance to practice that.

No, my joy was not robbed. As I looked at my five children really enjoying their cinnamon buns and laughing about something they had just watched on the Macy's Day Parade, I sat back and thanked God for all the blessings in my life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Being Thankful

As my kids get older and we can have meaningful conversations, I am so thankful that I am a momma. Over the past month, I have had the pleasure of just being alone with all five of my kids at different times.

Eleanor - Eleanor and I have had a few amazing conversations lately, mainly due to her life now in school. Everyday she is bombarded with kids who use foul language, who tell each other to "shut-up" and peers who are disrespectful to their teachers. She is struggling with finding that one good friend and will often say her teachers are her closest friends at school. While this could make me sad, she is confident in herself and has told me that her plan at school is to be nice and friendly to everyone. While this keeps her from making that one true friend, it does give her multitudes of people to hang with or talk to. She has made a goal of sitting with a different group of kids each day at lunch. And she does! One day she sits with the jocks, the next day a group of friends from show-choir, followed by a lunch with the first girls who invited her to eat with them. I think this is a healthy way to get through middle school. The one thing she just can't wrap her brain around is all the kids who "hate" their parents. She has come home completely upset that all the girls will talk about is how "stupid" and "dumb" their moms are. Eleanor and I have a tight relationship and while we are NOT friends, we are mother and daughter who talk about almost everything. And boy, that girl can make me laugh! She has a very sharp sense of humor and I have enjoyed lately seeing this girl blossom into someone who can talk with me and turn around and have me crying because she said something so funny! Watching her grow up is so cool!

Harry - Harry just preached his first sermon! While Joe and I were in Chicago, Toby gave Harry the assignment of preaching at their home-church. And apparently, Harry embraced it - he had three points with scripture for each point to back him up. Toby said I would have sobbed. In the past month Harry has not only preached a sermon, he has decided to go to the Dominican Republic on a missions trip. And, he is now the first to read his Bible each morning, always asking questions or making observations. This boy's soul was battled over for years, and I know we are not done protecting him through prayer, but I can't wait to see how God uses this special boy.

Isabel continues to be our joy-giver, no matter what is thrown at her, she just smiles her way through it. I can't even begin to tell you how thankful I am to have her personality in my home! She giggles, she squeals, she laughs and she always wants a cuddle. Even when she is being disciplined, she smiles at us - absolutely amazing. God knew what he was doing when he gave us Isabel, for we all need a dose of pure joy every day, don't we?

George has simply become my son. It is as simple and as profound as that. The line between home made and hand picked is getting smaller and smaller and I now delight in hearing him talk to his siblings and finish the conversation with, "OK, my sister" or "goodnight, my brother."

Lincoln and I have grown closer this year, due to the decision to put the kids in school. And he is downright funny! He laughs at the silliest things and he has discovered the fun of being the clown of the family. Is is a lot of fun teaching him letters and numbers now, and I am anxious for another year of quiet afternoons to read and learn.

Our day to day life is pretty hard....but it pales in comparison to the joy that comes from being a mom to these precious five. Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings on this eve of Thanksgiving. May I never forget to look at these five wonders as creations of Yours who are fearfully and wonderfully made. And may I never forget how much love I feel for them at this moment. And I pray that love continues to grow exponentially each and every year that I am blessed to have them in my home. Amen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"It Wasn't That Hard"

Joe and I just returned from a wonderful night away. You know, that really is all it takes to be refreshed and re-charged, one night. On the train ride home, we both were melancholy and couldn't wait to get back to our big family! We had a great time...I will write more about that later...but now, I want to share a conversation we had with Eleanor last night.

At the dinner table, I was sharing with Joe an email I had read earlier that day about a friend who adopted two girls the same time we were adopting George. This woman and I cried together on the plane ride home, both questioning what we had done. But, she seemed so positive...she kept saying, "Oh, it will be fine." I held on to her words and I used her positive attitude to challenge me. What were people thinking of me as they looked over and saw me fretting and crying? Because of this friend, I determined to "buck-up" and get through it.

We have followed each other's journey since that day. And while I have had joyous reports lately, my friend has not. The sixth month mark has not found things to be easier in her house. She has daughters who want to continue to communicate with their birth mother and they want to keep their Ethiopian language. George, on the other hand, has stopped talking about his life in Ethiopia and even yesterday sat in the kitchen with me and said, "No more Africa Daddy. I love my Daddy here." I don't know which is better or worse?

Joe and I never want to cause or encourage George to forget his amazing culture. We look forward to the day when we will take him back to Ethiopia to explore his native land! But for now, he is bonding with us, he is believing that we are his family and he is turning his back on Africa. For our family, that is working.

So, I was sharing with Joe how my friend is struggling and I brought up that her bio kids are also having a hard time. Joe asked, "Why?" and I looked at Eleanor and said, "I am sure you could tell us why they might be having a hard time."

Eleanor kind of shrugged and said, "I can't imagine still struggling. Mom, it really wasn't that hard...ever."

I couldn't believe my ears! Does she not remember the times George pulled down his pants and screamed at the top of his lungs in our front yard? Did she forget all of us taking refuge in the basement when he was in his room tearing it apart? I realized that she probably had forgotten those moments. Praise God!

It is amazing how that relationship has evolved. George truly looks to Eleanor as his big sister. When it is time to go outside to catch the bus, he wants Eleanor to be with him. He knows Harry and Isabel are older, but he doesn't feel totally safe until Eleanor is with him. George also now shows Eleanor pictures he has colored or letters he has written, wanting to get some praise from her. It is truly special moments like those that Eleanor focuses on now.

Children have an amazing capacity to forget...don't they? They remember the fun times, the joy filled days, the moments of belly laughter. And thankfully, they tend to forget - and let go of - hard times and bad days. I am convinced that is a gift from God and that is how He wants us all to live. We let the enemy in when we force ourselves to hold on to pain and anger and an unforgiving heart. Eleanor taught me a huge lesson in that one statement. It really wasn't that hard, so get over it!

I read a friend's blog who quoted another friend (the wonderful world of blogging) that totally smacked me in the face. Adopting an older child gives our children the capacity to learn how to love!! If we had not adopted George, my children would not have had the opportunity to learn how to truly love. Love in our bio family was easy and pretty clean. Loving George in those early months was hard and messy. But, bottom line, we taught our children that love is a choice...and they watched us chose to love George. They have never had to see that choice being made before...now it was staring them in the face every day. Are my parents going to stick with him? Are they going to continue to serve and forgive and sacrifice? Imagine the eternal lessons they learned in those first few months. My children will never be the same after this....and now they want more siblings! They say, "Why not?"

They are all learning what is important in life and it isn't Gameboys, remote control cars, or Ugg boots. It is family and love. When we got home from our trip away, the seven of us lounged around on the couches for hours - just talking and laughing - just being together. And Joe looked over at me and said, "This is what life is all about." I agreed.

We (Joe and I) were created to be parents. That doesn't mean we don't make mistakes. Goodness, I made mistakes with them already this morning! It just means that we are all at our best when we are doing what God created us to be.

Adoption can be hard. Adoption can be draining. But, adoption is so worth it!! We ALL know a little more what it means to love the way Christ loves. We ALL know a little more what it means to chose to love. We ALL know a little more how innocent children need a good home to grow in and that it is not their fault when they are scared and angry. We have seen what a few months of love and stability can do for a child - it truly is amazing!

I long for the next generation, our children, to wipe out the need for orphanages or foster care. I long for the next generation to give up the idea of success means a big house with "great rooms" and gourmet kitchens, and instead embrace the idea of crowded houses full of love and laughter. I long for the next generation to realize it IS their problem that there are orphans out there.

God says 47 times in the Bible to care for the fatherless....do you think He means it? In the words of my 12 year old, "It really wasn't that hard....and I think we could do it again."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Little Sparks


I just wanted to put this cute picture up here. This is Isabel and George getting ready to go to AWANA where they are both Sparks. They are both memorizing scripture, hiding it in their hearts, and I couldn't be more proud of my two little Sparks. George has been walking around the house for a month saying John 3:16 and it is a reminder to me each time I hear his say it what the good news is all about.

That reminds me of how we are preparing for Christmas this year...we keep asking George if he knows what Christmas is about and he shakes his head "no". As Christian parents, we have a choice to make...do we talk about Jesus AND Santa in the same breath? Do we even mention the red-suited jolly fat guy? George knows all about Jesus' crucifixion and I am so excited to share with him the glory of his birth.

I am looking forward to seeing Christmas through the eyes of George this year. It is like that first Christmas with your child when she is finally old enough to really get excited. We have no choice but to keep things simple this year, but I can't wait for the town's Christmas parade, or the making of the cookies and filling the home with Christmas songs. We have the chance to really set a precedent with our children about what Christmas is all about.

Finally, I just want to share a cute story about George and AWANA: Last week, George's group was talking about transportation in Old Testament times. The teacher was telling the kids how there were no cars or trains or airplanes back then and she proceeded to ask the kids how they thought people would get from one town to another.
George very proudly raised his hand with the perfect answer. (On a side note, as my friend was telling me this story, I thought for sure George would have the right answer. I thought he would say "donkey" since he is always talking about his Africa Daddy and his donkey.) So, the teacher called on George and waited for his answer. George put his hand down and very proudly answered, "A motorcycle!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brothers

Lincoln and George have started this game...they pretend they are going to sleep, say their good nights and then flop into their beds. Then they yell, "Good morning!" and fly out of bed, tossing the covers into the sky and racing around the house.

They did this at least 67 times last night...

And this morning, before school, another 2 times.

Then it was time for George to catch the bus for school. And Lincoln cried. Real, crocodile size tears. Not a whiny 4 year old cry (which we hear a lot these days), but a genuine sadness.

And George felt empathy for his little brother and said, "I'll play when home school."

They hugged, tight, and then George went outside to wait for the bus. As he waited he said, "Lincoln is my little brother. I love him."

It is these little moments that mean so much.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Am a Weldie Now!


Today was a very big day for us, but even more for George. Today, we officially re-adopted him. Now he is a US citizen. Now he is a Weldie. He is a new creation!

Oh how meaningful this day was...in so many ways. A few weeks ago, when I took my paperwork to the Jefferson County probate court to set up our court date, I made the decision to just have Joe and I go to court, say our "I do"s and then go home. George would stay in school and he would never know what went on.

You see, I was not trying to be mean. I have come to realize how unfamiliar settings can send George into a tailspin. Those tailspins entail George reverting back to the George of month one or two. A light bulb has finally gone off in my head about this...he is scared, uncomfortable, unsure how to communicate how he feels an so he switches into "survival mode". This means he wants to hurt us before we can hurt him. He will be mean to us before we can be mean to him. He will turn off his emotions before someone can cause him pain. He does whatever he needs to protect his fragile emotions. So, I thought that taking him to a court, standing before a judge, all that stuff, would cause George anxiety. And, I simply did not want to make our re-adoption of him an anxious moment.

But, God whispered to my heart, "He deserves a celebration. I delight in him. I want you to delight in him!" Oh, how those words pierced my soul and I knew at once these were the words of truth. George deserved a celebration!

Passionately, I cried to Joe that I had changed my mind and not only would we be taking George, we would pull all the kids out of school to mark this very special day.

We tried in vain to explain what was about to take place; we would go before a judge and he would review our post-adoption reports and then he would make a decision about whether or not he could officially be a Weldie. George just didn't get it, because in his mind and in his heart, he was already our son. We agreed, but tried to say that we needed to do this anyway. I don't think he understood at all.

On the drive there, George was his usual self, "Can you radio, please?" Translation: can you turn on the radio please? That was soon followed by "I LOVE that song!"

As soon as we walked into the lobby of the courthouse, George froze. We had to pass through a metal detector. Immediate flash backs of our time in the various airports on the way home from Addis. Images of a smelly, dirty boy screaming at the top of his lungs, being dragged through the metal detectors filled my brain. Oh no...I totally forgot about these things. Joe bent low to George and simply told him, "I will never leave your side."

That seemed to be enough for George to relax a bit...that and seeing all his siblings go through with smiles and giggles. The sheriff on duty was amazing and joked and smiled the whole time - and not those corny jokes of someone trying to "Funny Guy" - you know, the loud funny guy that seems to pop up in every crowd situation. No, this guy was saying simple jokes to Harry and Eleanor and then reassured George that it would all be OK. Nice guy!

We climbed up a flight of stairs and then walked down a long hallway. The whole time we were passing rooms of people, most of them looking unhappy or nervous. Our brood, on the other hand, was skipping and laughing and holding hands as we excitedly sauntered to our court room. What a contrast in life...here we were celebrating adding a son to our family...and there they were, not exactly sure why, but with looks of fear on their faces.

The courtroom was meticulous and in the waiting room we lectured the kids about proper behavior in the court room. We walked in quietly, took our seat and prepared to see a case that was in front of us. Apparently the docket had become backed up (no surprise) and we were no longer a 2:15 case, probably more like a 3:00 case. I have to admit that Harry and Eleanor in particular were excited about seeing a real live case, and the former home schooling mother was just bubbly inside thinking about the discussions we could have on the way home about law, public defense, judges, etc. But, the court clerk took one look at our brood and said, "Why don't we move case 3021 up." The judge agreed. The defendant of the case before us looked very annoyed when the judge ordered him into the waiting room. We didn't care...we were now up!

The seven of us came forward and sat at the tables: Joe, George, Lincoln and I at the defense table. Isabel, Eleanor and Harry at the prosecutors table. We were all a little giggly and so desperately wanted to talk into our little microphones. George kept putting it up to his ear (which he keeps calling his eye) and trying to hear music. I am sure we were quite a sight!

The judge opened our case and started reading through the file. He asked Joe and I a few questions and then said, "I am ready to make my judgement."

I have to admit, I held my breath a bit. How could he make a judgement already?

"I find that Joe and Traci Weldie are of sound mind and are fit parents and are doing what is in the best interest of the child. I approve of the petition to adopt. From this moment forward Georgebush Joseph Lema will be known as George Bush Weldie."

In the best interest of the child....time seemed to stop as I pondered those words. We really are doing what is in George's best interest. No matter all my hard days and all the arguments and fights and struggles, all this IS in the best interest of George! He is now a US citizen - wow! His life is so different from this moment on. The life expectancy of a male in Ethiopia is 42 years! Now, George has double the life time to love and grow and serve the Lord. Praise God!

The judge said, "Now you can clap." And we all laughed and clapped and smiled huge grins at each other. We took a picture, and actually a man in the gallery volunteered to take a picture of all of us - I am soooo disappointed at how blurry it is, but we do have a picture of all 7 of us with the judge.

The judge came off his bench and gave George a high five and said, "I love your name! George Bush is one of my favorite people - so I am sure you are going to be great man." He then told Joe and I how wonderful it is to reside over adoptions like this: all joy! I looked around and everyone in the room was smiling and clapping - everyone was celebrating George!

On the way home, we explained to George how we all have middle names and we went around the car a few times each sharing our full name. It was quiet for a minute and then we heard George say, "George Bush Weldie. I am a Weldie now."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Six Month Update


I am a little late, but it is time for our sixth month update. On the last day of April, Joe and I landed at O'Hare airport in Chicago with our new son, George. We were dazed, worn out, and absolutely terrified. We had just experienced the worst 20 hours of our lives, with George causing such a commotion in customs back in Dulles (Washington DC) that the federal agents barely checked our luggage, just wanting to get that screaming boy out of there. Joe and I wept on the plane ride home, continuing to ask, "What have we done to our family?"

When we arrived home, our kids had made beautiful sings, they hung bright orange balloons all over the outside of our home, and they raced to the car with smiles, ready to hug and welcome their new brother. What they got was a boy screaming and crying who just stared out the windows of his new house.

Over the first month, we experienced things that had never occurred in our home before. Temper tantrums unlike any other, rooms being torn apart, clothing constantly being taken off in anger, pinching, hitting, spitting.

Each night, when George was finally in bed, we would all let out a huge sigh of relief that the house was now quiet and I would cling to my home made children, not wanting to let them go. And each night, I would fall asleep dreading the cries of "Momma!" that I would inevitably hear as George would scream when he needed to go to the bathroom. He didn't really want me...he just wanted to have permission to get out of bed.

I remember calling Carole, a friend who was about 7 months ahead of me in adopting older boys from Ethiopia. I cried as I asked her, "When will this get better?" I clung to her sweet southern accent as she very calmly replied, "Oh, Traci, it WILL get better! In three months you will see a difference with language. In six months, oh, there will be such a difference. Please just hang in there." I hung up the phone with her and decided on that day I would start marking time...if I could just get to three months, things will be better. Then, I set a goal for getting to six months, just longing to be proven that, indeed, things would be so different.

Well, we just passed the six months mark...and I am not even sure how to put into words the changes that have happened. Joe and I were driving home from the airport this past Saturday, with George happily sitting in the back seat. We both paused to just look at him...he was staring out the window just fascinated with each and every car that zoomed past, and he bopped his head to the music, singing a word every now and then that he might remember. His face is so different...he holds his head up high, he looks at us when we talk to him, and he smiles... a lot now. And, in that moment of looking back at George in the car, Joe and I could not even whisper a word, we simply started crying with each other. We have come so far!

That behavior in those first few months was the behavior of a terrified, angry child. All he needed was love and stability. Look at what six months of love can do for a child! And I am not tooting my own horn here - y'all know how difficult it has been for me to love George...the love that has changed George's life is none other than GOD'S LOVE!

I guess I could go into details about all the ways George has changed over the past six months; how he loves his dog, how he is thriving in school and almost reading (even impressing the Title 1 teachers), how he loves Awana and can't wait to learn more about Jesus, how he sleeps through the night without crying anymore, how he confidently plays with his neighbors...the list could go on and on. Let's just say, those who knew George in Ethiopia would not recognize the boy now..he has LIFE in him again!

The one thing I find very interesting about George right now is that he absolutely hates (and I hardly ever use that word) when we talk about his life in Africa to other people. As soon as he hears us answering some one's questions about Ethiopia and what his life was like, he says, "No talk about Africa!" and hides. He also does not want to be reminded, in any way, about his behavior when he first came home. This is a case of a person being adopted into a family and being a totally new creature, not wanting anything to do with their former life.

It's a reminder of how we are to be when we are adopted into God's family - look at how George doesn't want to even talk about his life before us - why are we still attracted to the things of this world after we are made new? I have a great example right before me of how easy it is to put that old life behind me and embrace my new life. Maybe this topic is for another day...just something to think about for now.

I was kicking the soccer ball with George this morning as we waited for the bus (not sure my neighbors appreciate the noise at 6:30am - but we were cold and needed to do something to warm us up). A ball he kicked raced past me, so I had to run up the yard quite a bit...right then the bus pulled up and while Isabel and Harry just yelled, "Bye mom!", George ran as fast as he could yelling, "I can't go without a hug from Momma!". He threw himself into my arms, hugged tight, and then raced back down the driveway to get on the bus. That says it all.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Joy of a Big Family

George is getting it....what it means to be part of a big family. Over the last month, George has had the chance to see both sets of grandparents...one for the third time, and one for the first time. And we have worked hard over the last month explaining what grandparents are and who they are in relation to Joe and I. I think he is getting it!

My parents flew up from Ohio to spend a few days with us...and mainly to meet their 13th grandchild named George. In a way, I am so happy they waited until 6 months in to meet him, for the George of today is much different than the George of six months ago. The George of today smiles...a lot. He can read books from school, he jokes around and does his "Georgie dance", and he is fun to be around. My parents were amazed at how much English he can speak and when I started to think about it, it is amazing how quickly he has grasped the English language!

George had been told that when he got off the bus, his grandparents would be home. So, on Wednesday, he ran off the bus right past me! He ran straight into the house, looking for his grandparents. Without even so many words, George knew that his grandparents loved him. I don't know why...I can't explain it...but I think God had blessed him with the peace of knowing he has a big family out there who love him. And so he ran straight into the arms of my mom and said, "Hi Grandma!"

Soon after that, George was outside kicking a football with my dad (whom he called Grandpa all week...we call him Grandad, but no one cared about this little renaming) and Lincoln. I could hear him laughing and saying "Oh Grandpa! Kick it high!" George was just getting the chance to learn what it is like to play ball with a grandfather. It was a priceless moment for me...and I am sure one for George as well.

What a gift to give a child who had so little! He now has a family of four grandparents who shower him with love and attention...four grandparents who all want to know him and learn from him. We were told George lived with his grandmother in Ethiopia, but he flatly refuses that notion. Who know? But now he has the love that is given from grandparents that is unique and special.

Meeting Grandma and Grandad (or Grandpa)





We just completed a very nice weekend with my parents visiting from Ohio...I will post more later, but wanted to share a few pictures. I will say that George was wonderful this weekend and has seemed to really embrace the idea of having a big extended family.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Need A Gift Idea for Teachers or Co-Workers?


I have been a little obsessed with the children at Recce's Rainbow. These are special needs children who need to be adopted, many of whom have Down Syndrome. Every year, they raise money to defray some of the cost of adoption through this amazing Angel Tree program. Check it out:




I am going to have my kids pick out a child to pray for and then we'll make a donation and get an ornament with that child's picture. Instead of a "Your A+ Teacher" mug, my kids will be giving these as gifts to their teachers.


Here is one of the cuties.


HAIR!!!!!!


God knew what he was doing when he put a boy on our hearts....I am struggling with this whole hair thing!!

At Harvest Fest this week, our table was across the isle from Minister Richard from The Captive Project. Joe and I have been in a prayer relationship with him for a while, but had never met face to face. We were so excited to meet him and talk with him and introduce our family to him.

After a few minutes of greetings, he said, "I need to talk to you about George's hair."

Uggghhhh! Really? What's wrong with it?

"His peers, you know, African American peers, are going to make fun of it."

You've got to be kidding me!

But then we were interrupted and we never were able to finish that conversation! I am left with so many questions like what am I doing wrong? What do I need to do?

I have read blogs, I have read adoption board postings, I have seen pictures... but I guess I just don't get it!

So...reluctantly, I have turned to YouTube videos - sigh.

We have all agreed to let George's hair grow out - either to locs or to just a little longer. He doesn't want his head shaved. (THAT would be the easy thing to do! And while I am on that subject, why is it that none of my boys like their hair cut short? They all want to be shaggy and messy.) I have learned that in order for George's hair to grow, it needs to be combed out every night and moisturized. The key is to not let the curls get tight, which apparently leads to breakage. There are also rules about how often we can wash his hair and what types of shampoo to use. Who knew an Ethiopian boy's hair would be higher maintenance than an almost 13 year old girl?

Joe often laughs and says, "What do they do in Ethiopia? They don't have access to lotions and moisturizes?" Well, a friend of mine who is a missionary in Ethiopia just sent me a picture from the southern regions, where George is from, and the men there put massive amounts of wet clay in their hair...hmmmmm.

So, last night we started our new regiment. I pick out George's hair. Then I part a section of hair and apply moisturizer directly onto his scalp. I do this about 85 times around his entire head. Then..off to bed he goes.

Already, I am wondering if I have what it takes to do this every night. If we can get his hair to 3 inches, we are going to take him to a salon on North Avenue in Tosa to have his hair locked. It will take a few hours, but I need a professional to do it...obviously.

Or....next time you see him, he may have a shaved head :)

Boys Laughing

Last night, for the first time, I heard George and Harry laughing together. Lincoln was given some "trick" cars for his birthday, but of course, George was the first one to figure out how to make the cars actually do the tricks. So, after dinner, George was tricking out the cars on the hard wood floor of our den. Harry has been trying to figure out the tricks, but hasn't had much time with them. He obviously saw last night as his opportunity to give it a try.

I was cleaning up after dinner, so I don't know what happened. All I heard was the laughter. Both boys laughing.

Delight.

It didn't last long.

But, it's a huge start!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Orphan Sunday

Last night was Orphan Sunday....I was so tired when I got home, I couldn't even spell the word "exhausted" correctly - ha!

Our family hung out at church all day yesterday, seeing no point in driving all the way back to Watertown just to turn around and drive all the way back to church. During our wait at church, we had some pretty amazing meetings!

First, a young man we have come to bump into regularly, walked through the doors. On a side note here, isn't it cool the way God brings certain people into your path over and over again? It's like he is saying, "I want you to get to know this person!" Well, the young man walked in desperately looking for a box of items from Nigeria that his wife grew up with and his Bible. He had looked everywhere and was starting to panic a bit. Thankfully, I had just seen a woman I have been working with a lot lately, who was in charge of the set-up and tear-down for Harvest Fest. She hadn't see me, I simply saw her moving a cart into the elevator. I suggested that I go to her office and see if she knew where his box might be.

While I was doing that, Joe and this young man sat next to the fireplace and chatted. Then this man asked Joe what he could pray for and then immediately got into pray over Joe's request. I love that! I am humbled by a young man who can instantly get into prayer with someone, not knowing them at all, but knowing they are brothers in Christ.

And...I found his box!

Then, another young man walked in and asked me if I knew where the lost and found was. He has lost his iPhone sometime between church and picking up his kids in the nursery. We walked together through the entire church looking for his phone. During our conversation, we discovered that we had a mutual friend - pretty cool. We did not find the phone, but we walked back to where Joe was sitting by the fireplace to get some paper to leave a note. That is when Joe noticed this man's Michigan key chain and he joking asked, "Babe..did you realize you were helping a Wolverine?"

I gasped, (for those of you who don't know...Buckeyes usually don't talk to Wolverines :))but then that started an hour long conversation with this fascinating man. He is a SWAT policeman for the city of Milwaukee. Fascinating stories and our kids' were pretty excited to have a real, live policeman there talking about storming drug houses and talking out hostages. But best of all, this young man is a follower of Christ...and to know that he is out there on the streets of Milwaukee every day is pretty cool!

When the Orphan Sunday event was finally ready to go, we had some technical glitches. The enemy was at work. Some of us ducked into a small room and prayed - for that was all we could really do. The prayer wasn't answered immediately, but it was answered and eventually we were able to get the live feed with the event in Tennessee!

George was so excited to see the children's choir that included kids from Ghana. He loved the music and was doing his "Georgie dance" in his seat. Then he curled up against me and started dozing off, a boy completely at peace and comfortable with his momma. As I looked around the room, I saw kids from every tribe, tongue and nation in that room. Kids from Africa, kids from Europe, kids from Asia and kids from North America. All these kids were with a mom and a dad, cuddling, smiling, holding hands...and all smiling. Wow! These beautiful children were so loved by God that He made a way for them to be put where they are now - in homes where they get enough to eat and clean clothes and an education. Some kids ran around the church, having fun. Some of them fell asleep in their momma's arms. It was simply beautiful to be in a room that had so much diversity (although I really wish there was even MORE!)

And then I was struck once more with a lesson God has been continuing to teach me. These children ARE Jesus. They were hungry, thirst, homeless...needing someone to care for them. Jesus is clear in his word that when we feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, we are doing those things to HIM. Not that we are Jesus doing Christ-like things..uh-uh...it's the other way around. When we feed the hungry we are given an opportunity to meet Jesus and love Him! Matthew 25:40 says this, "Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me."

How can I ever be the same when I know that those hurting around me ARE Jesus? I cried in my heart last night at all the times I have been unloving or uncaring, especially toward George. I have Christ in my home, longing for love, structure and my commitment. It is not just a little boy...it is Jesus himself. I know that God has forgiven my hard heart and I am amazed at how much I love George now. I look back at those hard days and they are starting to fade away, like a blip in time.

I don't know what lies ahead for Joe and I and our family...I do know that He is not done with us yet. There is more we can do, there are more ways to love Christ, and we plan on doing that!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Exhaustd and Energized

Tonight we concluded our week long missions festival; Harvest Fest. While were weren't there every night, we were there quite a bit. This year was especially meaningful for our family and we all enjoyed many aspects.

Harry and Joe are signed up for the mission trip to the Dominican Republic (they paid their deposit!). Eleanor and Isabel continued to be inspired by the stories they heard. George was able to meet two men who spoke his native language. And Lincoln realized how much he loves worship at our church (we sat through it 4 times last weekend).

And as usual, Joe and I leave moved. Each and every year God tugs at our hearts, asking us to rededicate our desire to follow hard after Him. Every year God asks us, "Are you willing to do what I tell you to do?" and "Are you willing to go where I tell you go?". And each year, we leave this week telling God, "Yes!"

We have changed our lives drastically because of Harvest Fest in the past. First of all, we realized that our neighborhood WAS our mission field. I know that sounds like a "duh" moment, but we really felt like the people living around us didn't need to hear about God's love. How wrong we were. Our Tosa neighbors desperately wanted to hear the truth...but most importantly they wanted to see how a Christian lived. And we were far from perfect, occasionally they heard the fights coming from our house, or they witnessed our children being disrespectful. But, they all wanted to see what an Evangelical Christian looked like in today's world. None of our neighbors attended church, not even C and E church...but they sure wanted to know about how we lived our lives.

The second change came from the mission festival that focused on urban ministry. After that week, we got involved with New Beginnings are Possible. We started talking meals to 50some at-risk youth in the central city of Milwaukee on a weekly basis. That was three years ago..and we are still there.

The third big change was our adoption of George. We didn't hear a message or see a video or anything, we simply heard God's voice and we felt His broken heart when we saw images of hurting children. That really was enough for us to plant the seed.

So, what's coming after this year? I don't know. Joe and I talked about one specific thing on the way home from church tonight. This thing could really change our family again. This thing doesn't make sense, but it seems like God is leading us down this path. We need to pray some more.

But, we also leave this week and say, "Some day we will go!" And we hope that day really comes. We are so willing to go and we talk to our children about it on a regular basis. We don't know when...Joe thinks it will be in 10 or so years. But I laugh at him when he says that because we have been so convicted by God's word that challenges that way of thinking..how will we know where we will be in 10 years? Do we even know if we will be alive tomorrow?

We spent more time today talking to one of the gentlemen who grew up in Soddo, Ethiopia. He was amazing, kind, enthusiastic...we were so drawn to him. He counted to 5 in Wolyatinga with George and we laughed about how Ethiopian children say yes and no. He "got us" and we "got him". He knows the people we stayed with at the SIM compound, and his daughter is now living in Awassa, ET! We had a wonderful conversation with him...and as we walked out of the church, Joe and I both just cried.

What is God doing in our hearts and in our lives? How can we be so moved, moved to the point of tears, by talking to a missionary who was raised in ET? Isn't everyone in that church feeling the same way?

All I know is this...I am so tired of the talk, talk, talk...filling up on the fat that is available, but not doing. This is obviously a big theme in our lives right now. Sitting in church, many ideas came to my mind - all good things to do. I am praying for discernment, with my husband, so we know the direction God wants us to go. I have learned that Christian service without God involved will amount to failure - and I don't want to fail.

God is moving....and I want to follow.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Competitive Spirit

I am a competitive person! Joe is a competitive person! We have never been able to play board games against each other because we are both so darn moody if we loose. We are best when we are on the same team... which I am happy to announce - we are!

We see a competitive streak in all of our kids - some more than others. But we are now faced with an intense competitive spirit in George that our family is not used to. We do love to play games and we all like to win, but to George, his entire life is a competition.

Every chance George gets, he wants to "beat" someone. Getting pajamas on, if George pulls his shirt over his head first he yells out, "I win!" If George finishes his dinner before his siblings (which he always does), he shouts, "George beat everyone!" Walking up the driveway suddenly becomes a race, that George always has to win. Getting on the bus each morning, he cuts in front of anyone who is waiting in line.

Now, I understand. He longs for the praise that comes after the big win. "Great job George, you DID finish your dinner!" or "Wow! That was so fast how you got your pajamas on!" And his favorite, "George! You are the fastest runner in the family." But it gets old when these things are not really a competition. George needs to hear over and over again that he is valuable, capable, strong and healthy. He wants to know that his family sees his talents and his drive. He makes sure that he is still being looked after and that he is loved.

These are things that we do for our babies. I think about how when Eleanor was a baby, my first and only one at the time, and how I oohed and aahhed at every little thing she did. If she smiled, I clapped! If she babbled, I smiled and babbled back to her. If she courageously stood up on her own, I cheered and celebrated her! All those little things that moms do instinctively that create a self-esteem in a child is so important.

I don't think George ever got that...it's just not Ethiopian culture to do such things with your children. Yet, George is a child who longs to know that he is loved and appreciated and it is obvious that he didn't get that when he was little. So, he wants it now...constantly!

Our job as parents is to find that happy medium...celebrating his abilities and talents and at the same time teaching him that not everything in life is a competition that has a winner and a loser. Sometimes, I want him to be happy for one of his siblings, who won the contest that time.

Often times, I have to sit back and be amazed at how complex the life of a parent is. Not only do we meet all the physical needs of our children, we have to psychoanalyze them :) And it's not just an adopted child that needs this analysis every now and then.

This competitive spirit has done George well...he came to us very healthy for a child living in poverty in an orphanage. He also is very bright, which I think is a result of him wanting to always be the best. These things will continue to serve him well as an adult! The key is tempering that spirit when it comes to the every day things in life that just need to be done. Although, maybe there really is no harm in him shouting out that he is the best pajama getter-oner in the family.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Greatest Joys

Joe and I started preparing for a panel discussion at church tonight that focuses on international adoption. With all the things going on in our lives, we decided we had to work via email, while Joe was at work. The positive side to this is it caused both of us to slow down, be quiet and really think about how we would address certain issues about our adoption.

The big challenge...describing the greatest joys. Even as I sit here now, I have to pause. Sometimes I get angry at God, especially after I talk to adoptive parents who are so happy and so joy filled and have told stories about how easy the adoption and bonding process was. I am not jealous or resentful of them, just angry at God for our situation.

I don't hear from too many parents who share how their child would strip off all his clothes when he was angry and then scream at the top of his lungs. I don't hear form those who say their child ripped apart his room, taking off sheets, comforter, and throwing every toy or game out the door. I don't hear stories about their child biting, spitting and pinching their siblings. I don't hear about an adopted child running away from home...many times over. Those stories just aren't out there.

But, for some reason, those are the stories of George. It frightened my home made kids to see George take off all his clothes and scream. We all would go to the other side of the house when George was tearing about his room. My kids have bruises and scars from the biting and pinching they have endured.

Why would a loving, caring God put THIS child into our home?

The answer is simple....God loves George!

God saw George every time he cried. God saw when George hid in the bush when men came into the village with guns. God saw George when he buried his father. God saw George when his mother walked him to an orphanage and left him behind. God saw George when he had to cry himself to sleep every night for a year in an orphanage. And God's heart broke for this child who He created in His own image!

I don't know why George's behavior is different than some other children who come home and wrap their arms around their new family and never look back. I do know that George has deep pain and great hurts. He deserves a family who will love him even when he runs around naked and screaming. He deserves a family who will forgive him when he pinches and bites us. How else will he ever know the love and forgiveness of God?

As I was looking back through the Bible verses that have ministered to me over the past year, I was drawn once again to Hosea. To be honest, that was one of the books of the Bible that I naively thought was of no use to me. I mean, I was pretty sure I was not in an adulterous relationship and I couldn't possibly reconcile what God was teaching ME in that book. (I say these things red-faced). When we brought George home, I DID find myself in an adulterous relationship, of sorts. Here I was being asked to love someone who was unlovable. What I love about this book is that God doesn't call us to love the unlovable and then leave it at that. There is a promise at the end of the book - a promise that will be fulfilled when we love with God's love! Let me share it with you again:

"I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned way from them. I will be like the dew to Israel (George); he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like a vine and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon." (Hosea 14:5-7)

I read this and I see the promise coming even today....George's roots are growing deep and I am seeing his young shoots growing! He is growing more and more confident in our love each day and that in turn causes him to grow! There is a light in his eyes, a smile is on his face more often now. He is learning at an incredible rate - even his teachers are marveling! He hears God's word each morning and I trust it is doing a work in his heart.

So, what is my greatest joy, back to where I started this long post - ha! The joys come in all the little ways that George is growing and thriving. But, the greatest joy will come when George knows Jesus and decides to follow after him. Then, he will be a giant tree that flourishes, blossoms and provides shade for other. Oh, that day, when George blesses others, will be a day of great, great joy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two Men and a Smile

God gave George a gift this week. We had the privilege of meeting two men who have both been missionaries...well...forever it seems like! One grew up in Ethiopia, one served in Ethiopia for 46 years. They both have a love for the people of George.

And both can speak Wolaytinga!!! Both men, at different times over the last few days, have knelt down and spoken to George in his native language. I wish I could have captured the look in his eyes when he heard a language he recognized and loved. A light came on.

After speaking to Malcolm Hunter, George ran over to me and asked, "Did that man see me in Soddo?" I don't know, but I have a feeling Malcolm Hunter may have been responsible in some way of George knowing about Jesus.

The second gentlemen grew up in Soddo! I could hardly believe it when he told us. He also knelt down and spoke to George. George began to dance around with a huge smile on his face. What comfort it must have brought him to hear just a small bit of home.

I don't ever want to take Africa out of George! I want our family to embrace Ethiopian beauty and culture...and I really, really want to go back. We will some day.

We Made it Through Our First Fever

I worried about when this day would come. When I woke up George on Sunday morning and felt his head burning up, I knew the fever had finally hit. George was crying, holding his head and telling me that he was so cold. I hugged him and assured him that he would feel better and I went off to get some ibuprofen.

He followed me into the kitchen and very sadly asked, "Am I going to die?"

None of my kids have ever asked me that. I don't think that thought even enters their mind when they get sick. They look at it as a day to hang around on the couch getting good things to eat and lots of mom-attention. But to a little boy from Ethiopia, who has seen children die from fevers and coughs, he was scared.

He must have asked that question a few more times during the day. By Monday, even though he was still battling the fever, he began saying, "I'm NOT going to die."

I was reminded of how dire George's circumstances were in Africa. What we see as a fairly common ailment could be a death-sentence in an impoverished country.

Attending Harvest Fest this week has been a huge encouragement for me. Our festival is all about children at risk this year, and I have been reminded how "at risk" George really was. The speaker talked about kids starving and when given some food would eat until they threw up...that was George! He told stories about kids hiding in the bush...that was George! Missionaries shared stories about helpless, fatherless kids making their way to Addis Ababa in the hopes of survival...that was George's destiny. Joe and I saw those kids in Addis Ababa. Thousands of kids just wandering the streets. Nothing to do, nowhere to go...that was what George had to look forward to.

The speaker said something that resonated within me last night. He said, "God is a God who WANTS to be a father to the fatherless, but he relies on a body to do it." God needs the church, his body, to be the hands that pick up a child off the floor to be the arms that hold him, to be the smile that warms his heart, to BE CHRIST.

This whole week is about a big question mark on the screen. What is the answer to the millions upon millions of children at risk in this world? I am finding the answer for me...what is the answer for you?

Monday, November 2, 2009

 
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Break Their Arms

It is Harvest Fest week at our church. This is a week devoted to missions, locally and throughout the world. This week, in past years, has changed our lives. Because of Harvest Fest we drastically changed our lives, from simplifying our lives to adopting George from Ethiopia. This week means a lot to our family and we anxiously await it every year and try to attend as many meetings as possible.

This year the focus is Children at Risk - how perfect! Our guest speaker is from Viva Network and I had the privilege of hearing him speak twice. Saturday night, he opened his sermon with this: "But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out." (Psalm 10: 14-15)
When I heard this, and even as I have read it in the past, my mind and thoughts have been drawn to how God is the helper of the fatherless. Over and over again in scripture, God hears the cries of the fatherless, extorts his people to care for the fatherless, and He promises to put the fatherless into families. It is clear that God cares for children...especially those who have been orphaned!

What surprised me is when the speaker asked this question after reading from Psalm 10..."Are we, the Christian church, breaking the arms of the wicked? Have you broken an arm of the wicked?"

That really made me think. Of course, we do not literally find someone wicked and snap their arm in two, but we do need to break the arm, the reach, the power the wicked have over our most vulnerable people..children.

The number of orphans is mind boggling. The number of children sold into child-prostitution is enough to make me physically sick. The number of children who are hungry and homeless is immense. And what are we, those who call ourselves Christians, doing about this? The speaker kept saying, "We have won the battle of getting the attention of the church. The church will now say that there is a problem with children at risk." Yes, the message is out there - there are millions of hurting children in the world. But what are we going to do about it?

The enormity of the problem could almost cause one to become frozen with fear - what could one person possible do? I am here today to say you can do something! Even a 10 year old can do something (go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic)...even a 4 year old can do something (give sacrificially - it's never too young to start teaching how to do that)...even a family can commit to pray every night together for the children of the world. Simply put, it is just time to start doing something.

I leave a presentation like this even more on-fire for living out my faith. I am tired of just quoting scripture and hanging out in the Christian circles that are safe. It is time to get even more dirty - feed more children, go more often into the places that need a loving adult, pray more fervently. I cry out to God asking Him to show me how He can use me even more...I know I can do more with His help and leading!

We all know the problems that are out there... Church of Christ - it is time to DO something! I am not shouting this to anyone other than myself - I have to start with ME. At this time, I think I know what God wants - he wants me to raise the children He has blessed me with. But that raising does not mean necessarily raising them in comfort and nicey-niceness. Raising them in the fear and knowledge of the Lord means taking them into the city to feed hungry children. Raising them means to give them opportunities to travel around the world to help hurting children. Raising them means opening their eyes to the number of children who don't have a mom or a dad.

The other day, Eleanor was reading her email when she let out a squeal and a cheer. I asked her what she had just read that caused that reaction. She was reading an email from a dear friend from summer camp who just told Eleanor that her family is in the process of adopting a 13 year old girl from China. Eleanor celebrated that! Even in the midst of our struggles and our daily challenges with our adoption, she still sees the joy and the blessing and the selflessness (which is a good thing!) that comes through adoption. She cheered and wrote a letter of encouragement to her friend.

Harry is ready to hop on a plane and serve children in the Dominican Republic. He is hoping to work with babies - just holding them and making them smile!

Isabel is a constant cheerleader for George - and she begs me daily about adopting again!

Lincoln - well, he is too young, but I can tell you that he no longer sees anyone in terms of black or white or yellow or red. He sees beautiful children in all beautiful skin colors.

Our family is forever changed by stepping out in faith and adding ONE child to our family. Only God knows what lies in the future for our family - another adoption? More mission trips? Full time missions? We don't know. But I do know there are millions of hurting children in the world who need and deserve the love of the Christian church. Is it time for us to break some more arms? The enemy has a hold on hurting children right now - keeping them in poverty, keeping them scared and lonely. How could a child who is STARVING possibly further the kingdom of God? Those children are struggling to get through the day! We need to break the arm, the reach and the hold, the enemy has on children! It is time to do some more arm breaking!