Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cardboard Testimonies

We all carry the pains of this world with us.  No matter what difficulty you are facing today, Christ is greater.  In Him we can be set free! 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ethiopian Food, Ethiopian Fun

Thanks to Ron and Senait for a great afternoon of Ethiopian food and Ethiopian fellowship.  The injera and wat were delicious and satisfied a craving!  As soon as we walked in the house, we were flooded with the wonderful smell of the food and the beautiful smile of Senait.  The food and the hospitality took us back to Addis - where the warmth of the people is something you never forget.

We met Ron and Senait last week as they were visiting our church for the first time.  We were excited to have someone from Ethiopia visiting.  We were even more excited to be invited to their house for lunch today (after meeting them just one time).  It was sobering to also meet several of their friends who were also at their house for lunch and are in the States as refugees from Eritrea.  Aren't refugees supposed to only be in movies?  Aren't we supposed to be completely insulated from people whose lives are touched by war, poverty, and oppressive governments?  We are excited that not only will we have Ron and Senait visiting our church, but also one of the Eritrean families are interested in coming next week.  We look forward to being seasoned with more International flavor - and having our lives challenged by the needs of these refugee people.

Here are some pics from the day:
 As soon as the plate was set before her, Peaches was back in her happy place, grabbing a big piece of injera, scooping up some wat, and devouring it!

 The Henns were part of the party!

 Dash and Oggie - diggin' in!

 T-Bird and Rye Bread

 Sunshine and Bo

 Peaches with her new Eritrean friends.  They had a great time together.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Realness of the Pain of a Former Orphan

We were all sitting around talking tonight.  Just having some casual conversation.  When Peaches began to talk.  She often has little bits and pieces of things to say.  Things of not much consequence usually.  But tonight she started talking about Big Mom.  The one that lives in Africa.  We've never heard her mention Big Mom before.

She spoke of wanting to go see Big Mom in Africa.  The room grew quiet.  We listened intently.  We asked her if she meant Mom (pointing to Heather).  She said no.  That was Little Mom.  She wanted to go see Big Mom, in Africa.  The room was still as we listened.

Peaches has recently had an aversion to things African or things Ethiopian.  Even if we have shown her pictures of some of her Hannah's Hope friends, she has said "I don't want to talk about it." We've learned to be very careful in that area.  Some days it's OK, other days it's "I don't want to talk about it."

On Sunday, an Ethiopian lady visited our church (no, we don't have a lot of Ethiopian people in the area and yes, it was really cool).  Her name is Senait.  We introduced Senait to Peaches, and Senait began to speak Amharic to her.  Upon hearing the Amharic, Peaches immediately burrowed her head into my chest and then got down and quickly scurried away.  When we got home, I asked her why did that.  She responded, "I was scared."  Ugh.  My brain instantly processes the thousands of feelings and emotions that must be flooding her soul.  Amharic.  Ethiopian.  Separation.

So how does a 4 year old mind process these things?  Having lost family, food, culture, language, and country, how can she begin to understand that these people that she now lives with will never leave her and will always love her?  How can she understand that when she just wants to go see Big Mom in Africa?

As Peaches left the room, and went to do the perfectly contrasting and mundane activity of brushing her teeth and putting on her pajamas, we sat in the room silent.  Sunshine cried.  T-Bird and Rye Bread were stunned.  Heather (Little Mom) was hurt.  We all were struck at the reality of the loss in her life - and her inability to understand it or to put it in a box.  We talked about the struggle that we heard in her words tonight and how difficult the life of a former orphan really is.  Though she now lives in a home that is overflowing with love toward her, there is pain and loss that we can never touch, never understand, never quench.

And yet there is an answer to the seemingly unanswerable question of the pain of her life.  The answer is that no matter how destroyed our lives may seem, God is bigger.  No matter how deep the hole that we're in may seem, God is bigger.  No matter how empty our lives may feel, God is bigger.  Though, as her parents, we cannot reach her pain, He can.  That's the story of Immanuel, God with us.  The Good News is that Jesus came to save sinners.  Jesus came to restore lives.  Jesus came to heal the broken hearted.  Jesus came that we might have life and might have it abundantly. 

So how do we answer our little girl's questions about going to see Big Mom in Africa?  For now, we love her, a lot.  We explain that we can't go to see her now, but maybe someday when she gets older.  Then we love her some more.  Then we share with her about Jesus.  Then we love her some more, and some more, and some more. 

Which is what Little Mom is doing right now.  She's sleeping in the same room with Peaches.  She's sleeping in the same room with her because Peaches is scared at night.  And Peaches likes to call out and know that Mom is there.  And Peaches likes to reach over and be able to touch Mom in the middle of the night and know that Mom is there.  Because that's what Mom's do.  They love their children, and then they love them some more, and then they love them some more.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bursts of Sunshine!

Our Sunshine is a Senior and has another set of senior pictures - which were taken by the amazing Mrs. Beaver at Unto Him We Live.  Incidentally, this arrangement of pics shown below was done by Cassandra, another Beaver that is showing that she has a great eye for photography.  It must run in their blood!!  And BTW - if you think her picture arranging is good, you should try her chocolate cake!!!

I also want to announce that our Sunshine has her own blog!!  It's called Bursts of Sunshine and I invite you to go pay her a visit and give her some love!!  You will certainly be brightened by a burst of Sunshine!

I am grateful to God for our Sunshine.  We are truly blessed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Peaches and the Cotton Eye'd Joe

- What do you get when you combine an Ethiopian girl and country music at a church retreat???

- A lot of laughs!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

LifeLight 2011

At LifeLight with our newest AGCI adoption friends - Jason and Angie Bishop, and James and Toni Swanson

We went to Sioux Falls again this year for the world's largest outdoor Christian music festival - LifeLight!  It was amazing!  In addition to our normal clan that included the O's, Davidsons, and Henns, there were also about 100,000 other people there!

On Friday, we heard Reliant K, Hawk Nelson, Fireflight, and Manic Drive.  OK, so the last two I had never heard of....but that's because I'm old.  And I felt even older when the concert didn't get over till midnight and it was close to 2:00 am before we got home.  Yes.....2:00 am....that's in the morning!

On Saturday, we heard Building 429, Britt Nicole (Sunshine's Favorite!), Sanctus Real (Rye Bread and T-Bird have met them before!), Francis Chan (he wrote "Crazy Love" and is an amazing speaker), and my fav of the weekend - Tenth Avenue North.

We've listened to a lot of Tenth Ave North this summer through our many trials, and God spoke to us throughout the summer through their music, and definitely spoke to us during the concert.  It was a very worshipful time.  What a great reminder that He is always there regardless of what we have done or where we have been or what we're going through.

One of the highlights of the weekend was running into two other AGCI (All God's Children International) families at the concert.  Imagine sitting in a field with thousands and thousands of other families listening to the music.  Heather and I got up to get the little ones some MORE FOOD (as if we didn't bring enough!).  As we're just leaving our lawn chairs, someone asks, "Nordstroms?"  It turns out it is none other than Toni Swanson.  Toni and her husband are from Sioux Falls and are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia through AGCI.  We have had a few email exchanges and follow each other's blogs but had never met.  There's always kind of a semi-strange strangeness to meeting someone that you've only known through blogworld!

As we're chatting, Toni motions over behind us and mentions that there is another AGCI family sitting in the same area that is also adopting from Ethiopia!  (How can there be three AGCI families with 30 feet of each other at a huge outdoor concert???  Crazy!)  Jason and Angie Bishop have been on the waiting list for 14 months.  They are now number 4 and are expecting a call very soon.  Angie is bursting with questions and excitement and nervousness.  It was very fun to meet these other families.  And even though we had never met before, it seemed like we were old friends since we all share so many common adoption experiences.  While holding our own African Queen, it was good to reassure them that the wait is worth it.  I'd do it all again for our little Peaches.  A year ago she was in an orphanage, now she's eating mini-donuts in a field at an outdoor music festival in South Dakota with her FAMILY.  God, You are good!

So thanks to the Bishops and the Swansons for an encouraging night.  Getting to meet you both was a lot of fun.

And the worship of Tenth Avenue North is one of those experiences that I will remember for a long time.  There's something about the freshness of God's voice as relayed through song in a field on a cool night in South Dakota.  God, you allowed us to relive our summer and remember that you are always faithful.  You allowed us to see our summer from the other side of the Red Sea and remember that you are in control every step of the way.  Thank you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

You Make Beautiful Things

In watching the video, there are a number of the families that we know through blog land or through our agency's email loop.  We know some of their stories and we know the miracles and the joy that God has brought in their lives.

In the past, when I would watch these videos, I would long for the day that we could hold the little girl that God was going to bring into our lives.  Today, after watching the video, I can go hold that girl.

Enjoy the video.  Enjoy your kids.  Enjoy your family.  Enjoy God.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bomb Pops Can Bring Worship!!

As I snapped the picture above a couple of days ago, I was amazed to think that it was about a year ago that that little girl was left at the orphanage shown below.

Our little Peaches had been abandoned and was now an orphan.  She was living in far western Ethiopia, in a town called Gambella.  What would her life be like?

During this same time, a year ago, God was teaching us a lot about patience.  Though we certainly were not very good learners.  He was working in our little girl's world to bring her to us.  He was working in our world to bring us to her.  Looking back now, His timing was perfect.

Adoption is amazing.  It can take a little girl from a hopeless, poverty-stricken life to a home in Nebraska where they serve bomb pops on nice summer evenings.  Through the miracle of adoption, God unites a homeless girl with a family that has room for more.  He brings the lonely into a home and fills that home with joy and fills the lonely heart with hope.

How "cool" it is that a bomb pop can turn our eyes to God and once again see our story in a whole new way.

His web is ever spinning, ever bringing worlds together.  Holding us so that we rest securely in Him.  God we worship You.