Lilypie Waiting to Adopt tickers

Lilypie Waiting to Adopt tickers

Monday, April 16, 2012

and then they sang

I’m on the flight home with four of the most beautiful and amazing kids and wishing I had journaled throughout the trip, but you’ll forgive me. You might understand I had a lot going on. I’ll do my best from memory.

Josh and I effortlessly got from DFW to DC. We saw some sights and ate the best Italian meal I’ve ever eaten. Having a history buff brother-in-law was a plus in DC. THe next morning we boarded the flight to Ethiopia. I did have one jerky TSA guy accuse me of not knowing water was liquid. I called fire down from heaven but it didn’t come so I just turned the other cheek. There was a crying child pretty much from DC to Addis. The flight attendants walked the baby around and held him. They were very helpful and sweet but nothing seemed to soothe. It wasn’t as nerve-racking as it may sound. God made someone smart enough to invent headsets. Thanks, God.

When we landed in Ethiopia it felt good. More pleasant then I remembered. Almost like coming home. Probably because 80% of my kids were there. Josh may or may not have been thoroughly freaked out by long lines of non-English speakers in a dimly lit, warmish airport. We sat for a while for him to recover. A doctor came, from the tarmac I think, to start an IV. I’m glad Josh didn’t punch him. At Josh’s refusal of unknown intravenous fluids he decided to bring “something for nausea” which ended up being a couple of barf bags. Same as my previous trip with Donnie, the driver was not there which only escalated feelings of discomfort for us both. Finally he arrived and we made it to Addis Flower Guest House to rest before picking the kids up.

A couple of hours of sleep turned into about 4. I desperately wanted to see my kids, but my body would not allow. It was all for the best because little rest would be had the rest of the trip. We went to the transition house where the kids have been for the past 4-5 months. They were so happy to see me (and vice versa)! Feelings that were pent up over half a year apart rushed back like 10,000 birds taking flight. We went back to the guest house and played and talked with other sweet families who were there. We all went to dinner together at Lime Tree Cafe. Except Josh he needed sleep, as he was not feeling well. Beds were a little tricky because I didn’t know what they would expect and be comfortable with. Eyasu slept on a mattress on the floor next to Rahel and Yoseph in one room. I shared a bed with my oldest son, Solomon. There were many firsts on this trip, mostly for them, but some for me. Before bed I got to say, “Ok, kids, let’s go brush our teeth and have prayer together.” I could barely make it through the prayer for choking back tears. The next night I would ask Solomon to pray in Amharic.

Tuesday we had the famous guest house eggs and coffee and headed off to shop. I let the kids pick out things that would remind them of their beautiful country and culture. It’s fun watching what they pick. It shows a little of their developing personalities. More on that later. After returning from shopping, a little rest and play, then we decided to go pick up food and bring back. It had been raining pretty hard and no one wanted to brave the weather with kids and babies in tow. The men would go pick up food from Amsterdam (the restaurant down the street, not the city to the northwest) and bring it back. [On a side note, Josh just informed me Amsterdam is a city, not a country, hence the reason I didn’t embarrass myself on accident, but rather instead was afforded the opportunity to confess my ignorance of geology. Ok, on with the show.] So we set off to do what men once did except we ordered off a menu rather than using a spear. Rahel wanted to come along which was a very pleasant surprise. I love opportunities to bond with my kids individually. I will continue to seek out these encounters. As we stepped across the threshold of the restaurant the electricity went out rendering half of the menu (many of the things we came for) unorderable. We ordered a bunch of random things that they could still cook and walked the dark street back to the guest house an hour and a half later. That night Eyasu requested to sleep with me and Solomon. Of course I said he could. And of course I knew I’d get very little sleep. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes...knees and toes. All night long. At about 4am I went and got in bed with Josh. Thanks brother, you’re the best.

Wednesday. We went to Entoto mountain to see a 700 year old church hewn from stone. Imagine a three-room cave and then add nothing. That’s what we saw. They had a newer replacement built which was...ummm...majestic isn’t quite the right word, but I don’t want to diminish its beauty. Inside people were praying and worshipping while gazing upon the unique Ethiopian paintings depicting stories from Scripture. It was a nice experience. Personally, I enjoyed the ride up there more than the church itself. Along the way we saw the best view of Addis that exists and kids selling things on the street. We gave them candy and gum. There are far too many beggars to give money to; we reserved giving out money for when we saw a beggar isolated or at least only a few together. After we came down the mountain we rode by Cora (a.k.a. the dump). See a previous blog for more info on that. Seriously. You need to know about the dump. We stopped at a store to buy some candy for the kids at the orphanage where our kids spent many months. After we had paid, Solomon pointed out some sort of nutra-wafers(?). I purchased them not knowing that they were nutritious teething snacks for babies until I saw him giving them out. What a heart! How thoughtful and mature! We went by to allow them to say goodbye to the kids who’ve yet to be adopted and the nannies who took care of them. Bitter and sweet for sure. That night we celebrated a newly adopted baby boy’s birthday with a coffee ceremony, cake, and a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. Singing and dancing and good food. I love watching my kids eat. I think I’ve mentioned that before. Eyasu slept back in the room with Rahel and Yoseph. Still didn’t get much sleep though. Tomorrow is embassy, visas, and airports. Oh my.

Thursday we were up early for our embassy appointment. It was really rather uneventful. The guy who interviewed us was young and talkative. He eased my mind quickly. He asked some questions, gave me some documents, and we were on our way. We got back in the van and then they sang. Now, Jessica and I have mentioned before what a beautiful voice Yoseph has and I know I’ve told you Rahel loves music, but I never heard her sing until the day we were leaving embassy. For a few unforgettable moments my oldest daughter put away her shyness and sang. With clarity she sang the most beautiful Amharic words my ears have ever heard. Yoseph quickly joined her, then Solomon. And Eyasu rounded out the chorus with his cute comedics. They all sang together. I don’t know what the song said but they all knew it and it was amazing. I’d like to imagine it was some song praising God for His goodness. We got back from embassy and picked up another couple who was there for court and went to the transition house. That couple had to leave their son behind and wait for their embassy appointment. I think I cried more than they did because I know how hard the wait can be. Solomon explained the process to the young boy whose family had to leave him there. It was sad but with Solomon’s help he understood and was comforted. My kids said goodbye to their friends and caretakers and this sweet couple said goodbye to their son. Heart-wrenching. We went shopping one last time and this time I gave my kids 100 birr each, about the equivalent of $5, to spend on things for themselves or gifts for others. We got an entire coffee set, some traditional paintings and wall hangings, spices, and other various sundries. Back at Addis Flower Guest House we wrapped and packed our things, several of which would be broken on the flight home. (sigh)

I was so ready to BE home, but wasn’t really ready to GO home. Who can look forward to some 30 hours in commute? It was rough for me. The kids sort of enjoyed the flight. And the airports themselves weren’t that bad. It was the lines of people to get through security and customs, baggages checks, and claims...with 4 kids! My brother-in-law proved quite useful. Have I mentioned that I’m glad I wasn’t alone in this? There were many firsts on that trip and the days following, and I’m sure plenty are yet to come. First time on a plane, first apple, first escalator, first time to pray together as a family, and this is the first of many blogs with our four beautiful kids home with us finally.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 2, 2012

we are crazy

Oh wow! Elation isn't a word I often use, nor does it really express what's going on inside of us right now.

We got word this morning that we are cleared for an embassy appointment. We are currently waiting on the exact date but it will be either the 10th, 11th, or the 16th. After that I will travel back here with 4 of the most beautiful kids I've ever seen. Jessica and I just got to Skype with them to tell them that I would be there in the next week to get them and bring them home. I wish I knew what they were feeling. They smiled and said they were happy. They seemed giddy. But certainly there has to be some fear. Some sadness. Some anxiety over the unknown. I pray our love will cover those feelings. I pray God will give them His peace abundantly and everlasting.

Over the last few weeks leading up to this I have had much of those fears and anxieties. My joy and assurance has in no way been squelched, but those wretched "what-ifs" are a pesky breed. Jessica and I have prepared in every way we know how for every possible scenario. After we've read, researched, and talked to others we push back that particular possible dilemma, knowing we'll deal with it if/when it arises. All of those have bubbled back up in me and caused me to wonder if we prepared enough and for the correct things. It took several friends' wise words and several days to sink in: families aren't perfect.

I have an idol. One I am currently trying to demolish. One that I think most of us have. One I think goes virtually unnoticed and unattended to. An idol that is given to us slowly like an IV drip through pop culture and mass media outlets. It's the perfect family, or at least one that looks that way. All of my anxieties and fears were based on others perception of us.

I want people to think we have it together. But we don't. None of us do. We're a mess and yet God loved us where/how we were. He is the One to right the wrongs, fix the shortcomings, and repair our nature.

I want people to think we're not crazy. But we are crazy. What we're doing is not complimentary to the American dream. It's counter-cultural. It values children over homes, cars, jobs, money, success, etc. It measures happiness on a different scale. Our Father was crazy to sovereignly adopt us into His family as His children. That's nuts! It's a messy family. Ours will be too.

I want my kids to be smart, funny, happy, successful, etc. But they may not be. At least not according to the world's standard. God values our holiness above our happiness; I want our values for our kids to align with His values for His kids.

I don't want to elevate comfort and niceties over Christlikeness and Kingdom treasure. Actually it's my nature to do so. I want to. I want a better everything. I choose to fight that desire for the sake of the gospel. To show Christ's all-suffieciency I will try to fight my nature while the culture feeds it.

To my fears, people have offered that God is always with us, never leaves us, works all things for good, etc. I don't doubt any of this. I believe it. But where my belief ends and my unbelief begins is a thin line that says "He's there, but He's not enough." Truth mixed with lies, just like in the garden. "God, You're all I need plus my salary." "God, all I need is you plus _____." What would you fill in the blank with? Money, health, kids, friends, happiness...the list of things we need lengthens.

I want to believe He is all I need. So I war. War with me. Give yourself away for the sake of others. Give away your stuff for the sake of the gospel. At the end I believe we will find God. And that He is all we need.

Thanks for reading.