Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy 18th Birthday Sunshine!!!!

Well, it's here.  My little girl is officially 18.  I believe that to some that might imply being grown up and may also involve maturity.  Well, not so sure where she stacks up on those things, but I do know she enjoys a good time!  And based on her birthday celebration Skype call that I hear going on right now between her and her College Plus friends, I would say she is certainly fulfilling her calling for having fun!

For her birthday weekend, Sunshine arranged a great weekend celebration with all of us together, which included taking the whole fam to the "Muppet Movie" (fantastic movie, BTW), going to Wendy's for lunch today as a family, having the entire Beaver family over for the afternoon, and a (most likely late night) Skype call with her College Plus peeps.  She has had an amazing weekend, and it hasn't just been fun for her, it's been fun for the whole family to celebrate!  It really was cool that the main thing that she wanted to include in her birthday celebration was to celebrate with her family, all of us being together.  Not too many 18 year-olds want to celebrate such a milestone with her family!  We're thankful that God has placed a desire within all of our kids to enjoy being together.

Our little girl was born 18 years ago in Augusta, Georgia.  She was 7 weeks premature and was born at just under 5 lbs.  She ended up staying in the NICU for 12 days.  It was strange when Heather came home from the hospital and we had to leave our newborn behind.  Fortunately we didn't know any better since she was our first.  Based on who she is today, I'm guessing Sunshine thought it would be way more fun to hang out in the NICU with the other babies!  I'm sure it was one LOUD room!

I'm thankful for our Sunshine.  As her blog title states, she brings "Bursts of Sunshine" wherever she goes (and BTW "Bursts" can often be translated as "drama" too - we'll see if she reads this or not!!).  There's usually not a dull moment as she is usually capable (along with her brother Rye Bread) of bringing an entire school day to a screeching halt with endless lines from movies and Tim Hawkins.  But in the midst of all the excitement (again, read drama), there is a heart for God that desires to honor Him and serve Him.  As parents, we are blessed.  And we know that where she is today is completely by His grace and by His doing.  He is the one who has made her who she is - not our parenting, and not our genes.  I'm thankful that it rests on His goodness and His wisdom rather than our own!

We hope you have had a great birthday Sunshine and we hope you know that your birthday celebration (again, read drama) does not extend into the next week!  We love you very much!

I thought I'd post some more of her senior pictures (taken by the great Mrs. Beaver).  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A reminder of the early days

The picture above is a picture of a seemingly insignificant trinket that most of us have in our homes.  In fact, it may seem at times as though we have hundreds of them, cluttering the floor, causing pain and shrieks of terror in the night as our foot finds the sharpness of their edges in the darkness.

But this item has great significance for me.  This item was one of the small "Happy Meal" type toys that we brought to Ethiopia for our second trip when we brought our Peaches home.  It recently came out of the clutter and appeared as an item being played with.  My mind was instantly taken back to the days that that toy represents.  To the stage that our little girl was in as she played with that toy in a hotel room in Addis Ababa.

When arriving in Ethiopia on your second adoption trip to the country, soon after you arrive back in the country, you go to the transition home and bring your child back to your hotel room.  It is a very exciting time, yet filled with strange emotions as this child that you've dreamed of for months is suddenly living with you in a place that neither of you are comfortable with.  The city and the hotel are certainly not home to you and living with two ferengis in a completely new environment is certainly not comfortable for the child.  As the days roll by, confined in the hotel, waiting for the Visa appointment at the US Embassy, it is somewhat of an awkward time, yet filled with excitement and newness.

Peaches attached to Heather rather quickly.  She did not attach to me.  She really didn't want to have anything to do with me.  How can you blame her?  She had been through much pain and separation and how could she possibly understand that we loved her dearly and would never leave her and never wanted her to feel pain again.  Yet the pain she caused in my heart was real as she made it very clear that I was an unnecessary feature in the room.

On one of the days of our hotel stays, Heather went to the market with one of the other families we were traveling with.  That meant it was Peaches and me in the room alone together for many hours.  Thinking this would be a good thing, I was excited that we would bond during these few hours.  This turned out to be an expectation not based on reality as the hours turned into a very difficult time, with Peaches crying off and on and making it clear that she did not approve of me as her daddy.  However, during that time there was a brief time when we started playing with the little trinket in the picture above.  She started laughing, started playing, started to have a twinkle in her eye.  She wanted us to take turns.  She wanted us to play with the toy together.  There were sparkles of the possibilities of a relationship.  There were glimpses of a daddy/daughter bond. The toy that was worth only pennies, became a toy of unequaled value.

Though that time lasted only a few minutes, and the cold, shoulder shrugging returned quickly, it was a time that I will never forget.  As I was sitting on the couch this morning, my little Peaches who had just woken up came and sat on my lap.  She sat there quietly while I read a book and drank a cup of coffee.  I was overwhelmed at the changes that have taken place in this little girl.  She now joyously calls me daddy. She comes running when I get home for work.  She wants to sit in my lap when we watch a movie.  She wants to go with me when I run errands.  The joy and sparkle in her eye says that she is not just a girl from the other side of the world who lives in our house - no, she is my daughter and I am her daddy.  There is nothing like it.  To see the healing that has taken place in her little heart is amazing.  I'm thankful to God for what He's done in her heart.  She really is a remarkable little girl, and we serve a remarkably big God!

Here are some other pics from our days at the Riviera during our second trip to Ethiopia.  These are filled with a lot of emotion and filled with a lot of "Wow, we've come a long way."

 Leaving Hannah's Hope, headed "home" to the Riviera.  She has the wind-up toy in her hand!

 Putting on her first headband (tag still on it!)

 Playing with mommy in the dining room at the Riviera while we enjoy our first meal together

 Balloons were a big hit with her!

 Playing with her good friend Lidya.  The stroller in the back parking lot was a lot of fun!

 Learning to play on a iPad.  We were amazed at how quickly she picked things up.  She still loves to play on the "i pan"

 Leaving Hannah's Hope for the final time!

 Working hard at drawing on her Barbie drawing pad in the hotel room.

 Having more fun with Lidya in the downstairs meeting room of the Riviera.  A great place to run and play!

 Lidya, Tizita, and Peaches together at the Addis Airport getting ready to leave on the midnight (yes midnight!) flight to Amsterdam.  Three amazing girls!

 Peaches showing her bright smile at the Addis Airport

 The three girls saying good-bye at the Amsterdam Airport as they each head to different flights.  We love those girls!

 Trying to figure out what she'll eat!  Trying oranges and an Egg McMuffin at the Amsterdam Airport!

 Waking up the first morning in our HOME with her big sister Sunshine!

 Her first meal in her new HOME.....Injera and wat supplied by our good friends the Henns!

 So good to have you HOME with us Peaches.  We love you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Going to Ethiopia.....

An orphanage in Shone, Ethiopia.  Who would go there?  A very poor and rural area.  Who would go there?  A place far beyond even the "modern conveniences" found in Addis Ababa.  Who would go there?  I know that God would not only go there, but that He is there, and He is doing His great works.  I know that Jesus would walk amongst the people and that He would show compassion to the widows and the orphans there.  I know that He would reach out to the vulnerable, to the poor, to the hungry.  And because God has shone His light in our hearts, we are going too!

Yes, Sunshine and I (Russ), are going to the southern region of Ethiopia to a town called Shone (pronounced "Show - nay") with a group called Look Development.  We are thrilled to be able to go to an orphanage there and reach out to the poor and the needy.  To be able to love and care for orphans who have nothing.  To be able to help build a playground, to run a VBS, to do basic medical care - all in the name of Jesus.  We are going because these children don't just need playground equipment or hugs from ferengis (white people), but they need the gospel, they need the hope of Christ, they need the love of God poured out before them.  And while we will be reaching out to encourage the believers there, we know that the believers there will encourage us far beyond anything we can imagine.  We know that we will receive much more than any small amount we could possibly give them.

This has been a burden in my heart after reading so many books about orphan care in Africa and reading books about the power of the gospel to heal the broken-hearted and reading books about loving the vulnerable.  I knew it was either time to go back to Africa and love and serve orphans, or it was time to stop reading those books!  There was no other alternative.  I cannot sit without acting, I cannot be silent to the need.

God is leading a group of us from our area to go.  There is currently a team of 10 that have signed up and are beginning the preparations.  We plan to go in early March and stay for about 7-10 days.  We are all excited to see what God has in store for us.  Amongst the 10 of us, 3 are RN's, 4 will help with a VBS, and 3 will help with construction activities.  All of us will pour love onto the kids and have even greater love poured on us as we are surrounded by bright faces, infectious smiles, and joyful laughter.  The group we are traveling with is called Look Development.  Their orphanage in Shone is run by an Ethiopian couple who have a huge heart for meeting the needs - both physical and spiritual - of the orphans in their care.  We are blessed to be able to go and to serve there!

Please pray for us as we begin the preparations to go.  Our hearts are ready and yet we know that there will be many hurdles and difficulties in going.  It will be a hard trip and yet a trip filled with experiencing God's goodness!  We are so thankful and so blessed!  We have the gospel.  We must go.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy 15th Birthday Rye Bread and T-Bird!!!!

So happy for Rye Bread and T-Bird
turning fifteen, yes hoo-ray!
So fun to remember them little
and now they are young men today.

They bring us such joy and such laughter
each day through their antics and fun.
So thankful for all of our memories
So thankful to call them our sons
At times they seem like they are Siamese twins!
In the apple tree with their sista.

Rye Bread

The boys with their new Swedish soccer shirts!

Hiking at Ponca State Park.

Bustin' a move with the hool-a-hoop at Johnson Lake.

I have no idea what this pic is about....but then again there are about a thousand pics of Rye-Bread in our collection that I have no idea what they're about!

Doing some work in the garden.

Camping at Ponca State Park.  Always a good menu when camping with Dad!
One of the many, many pics taken with their Cuzzins.  Together they make up the legendary Peanuts!

After serving a "formal" breakfast for their sista's bday, they took a cool pic.


Becoming a family of eight.  Welcoming home our Peaches.
At LifeLight with their sista.

In Ethiopia at Hannah's Hope with Peaches

Running and chasing Peaches at Hannah's Hope was a lot of fun....especially for Peaches!

After receiving shots for travel to Ethiopia!
A night we'll never forget.  Celebrating together after receiving our referral for our Peaches!

Who's schoolin' who???

Father's Day with my boys.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Coca-Cola in Amharic

We were recently shopping at Target for a T-shirt for Rye Bread and found this Coca-Cola T-shirt.  As we looked at it we thought it was pretty cool because it had Coca-Cola written in quite a few languages.  As I looked more closely, I was shocked to see that one of the languages was Amharic - the main language spoken in Ethiopia (see top left in the picture).  The Amharic language is only spoken in Ethiopia, so it is extremely rare to see outside of that country.  We'll never forget the sweet taste of Coca-Cola at the Riviera Hotel in Addis while eating Tibs and Injera.  Wow...great memories! 

A couple of other Coca-Cola pictures....

 A Coca-Cola bottle written in Amharic in the Riviera Hotel

A Coca-Cola truck with the Riviera Hotel in the background!  Love that place!

While we're on memories of drinks in Ethiopia, I must say that the Fanta Orange was definitely the favorite.  I don't know if it's the real sugar that it's sweetened with, or just the smiles of the people serving it, there's nothing better in Africa than a Fanta Orange!!