Saturday, October 13, 2012

Great Book - "Running for My Life"

Lopez Lomong.
Age 6, living in Sudan, taken from his mother's arms by rebels.

Taken to a rebel training camp with hundreds of other boys.

Escapes from the camp with three other boys.

Runs for three days across the harsh Sudanese landscape.  Barefoot.  Hungry.  Lost. 

Arrives at the Kenyan border, sent to a refugee camp, officially a "Lost Boy" of Sudan.

10 years in the Kenyan refugee camp, surviving with 50,000 others, living in a hut with 10 other boys.  Loves soccer.  Loves to run.

Comes to America as a refugee, discovered as a runner with extraordinary talent.

Qualifies as a US Olympian, carries the US flag in the Beijing Olympics.

Knows that God has carried him every step through his incredible journey.

Just a few highlights from the book, "Running for My Life" by Lopez Lomong.  The story is a reminder of the harsh realities of life in Sudan, life in a refugee camp, and life in America as a former refugee.  Each step of his life is a journey of pain and difficulty and yet, from his viewpoint, a necessary part of God's plan for his life.  A plan that includes reaching sports' highest stage and using that stage to point others to the needs of Lost Boys and those suffering in the Sudanese conflict through his Foundation 4 South Sudan.

The book is also a reminder of how much we have in America in comparison to many around the world.  Questions roll through my mind.  Why have we been blessed with so much?  What should we be doing to help?  How will God view our stewardship at the end of our lives?  Are we doing what God expects of us?  Are we listening to His voice in our lives?  Do we see others' needs and do we act to help others?

I don't think the end goal is merely to feel guilty.  I think the end goal is to examine where we are in our lives and quietly listen to God, to do what He has for us.  It is not helpful for us to go in multiple directions, fueled by guilt, ultimately not accomplishing what God would have for us.  It is helpful for us to look to the needs of others and pray for God's leading toward the lives we should be involved with.

Take some time to read Lopez' book.  Take some time to meditate on what God has for you, at this point in your life, with the circumstances that he has placed you in.  Enjoy his goodness.  Share it with others.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Happy 6th Birthday Peaches!

Hard to believe she's six.  The tiny, featherweight girl I held on the steps of Hannah's Hope in Addis Ababa 1.5 years ago has grown so much.  She's filled with smiles.  Filled with joy and warmth and energy.  The girl that I could easily toss high in the sky, now requires effort just to lift her into my arms.  What a year and a half it has been.  She's has grown into us and we have grown around her.  On a legal level, the inclusion of an orphan into a family happens with a simple decree from a judge.  But on a practical level, the inclusion of an orphan into a family happens with much time, patience, love, and selflessness.  It is a beautiful thing to watch.  It is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

For her 6th birthday, Peaches had some friends over.  It was a simple party that included musical chairs (all who stood nearby were forced into action by Peaches' mom), cake, presents, and playing outside.  Very normal things for any little girl in America.  Very different things for any little girl in an orphanage.  We are blessed to have her as part of our lives and thankful that we can share what God has blessed us with.  Not just the stuff, but the togetherness, family, and love.

Some pictures from the day.  Radiant, isn't she?

Sunshine and Peaches looking at her new Bible story book she received from Grandma and Grandpa.

 A GIANT coloring book with stickers!  Hours O' Fun!

 A new bike!  She has ridden one of her brother's old boy's bikes since she taught herself how to ride a bike last summer.  Never did it occur to her that she had been riding a boy's bike and never did it occur to her that she should have a pink bike.  Now she has one.  She was very excited!

 Off she goes!


 A fun time opening presents with a few of her friends.

 What must be going through her head?

 Love that glimmer in her eyes!

 Whoosh!  Out they go.

One happy group of girls ready for some sugar!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Re-adoption Court Hearing

With tears in her eyes, there was much going on in her mind and her heart.
We had our re-adoption court hearing today.  Re-adoption is the legal process of adoption in the US.  Even though she was already completely legally adopted and already a US citizen, we needed to take this last step to allow her to be granted a US birth certificate and a US Social Security Number.  Those things are necessary for us to receive the adoption tax credit.

The re-adoption court hearing seemed rather simple to us and we had not put too much thought into it.  We worked with a lawyer who specializes in social work and adoption and after many forms and some money the court date was lined up.  I didn't think about explaining it to Peaches since I figured she wouldn't understand any of it anyway.

As we were walking up to the courthouse this morning, I sensed some uneasiness from her.  I told her we were going to the courthouse to complete her adoption and that they would ask some questions, we would answer the questions, and then we would go home.  It would be very easy.

She quickly tensed and withdrew, walking very slowly right behind me.  She said she didn't want to talk to anyone.  Thinking I understood her concern, I picked her up and carried her.  We went up to the second floor of the Dakota County Courthouse, all eight of us, and were told to go into the courtroom.  It was about 8:15 am.  Our hearing was scheduled for 8:30 am.  After sitting for a few minutes, the judge entered, we all rose, then sat back down, and then we received a civics lesson while we watched the legal proceedings of someone suing another person for faulty car repair.  It was fascinating.

We were next.  Peaches, Bo, and I headed up to the bench and were told to sit in the witness chairs.  We were asked a series of questions related to the specifics of Peaches' adoption.  Toward the end of the questioning, we were asked if we understood that following this hearing Peaches would be considered as though she was born of us.  Those words struck me.  I pondered their importance in our relationship with Peaches.  Though ethnically we are a half-world apart, we are connected as if by blood according to the State.  Isn't that amazing?  A girl from Ethiopia who was abandoned is now connected to a family in the US as though she was born of us.  I was reminded that she is an orphan no more.

It was then, however, we realized Peaches was crying.  She was quiet and looking down.  She wanted to be held by her sister Sunshine.  We asked the judge if we could take a picture and he happily said yes.  He tried to talk to Peaches but she turned away from him, not wanting to make any eye contact.  He thanked us for allowing him to be a part of the proceedings and we headed out of the courtroom to finish some last paperwork.

As we stood in the hallway, I heard Peaches through her tears say to Sunshine, "but I want to stay with you."  Wow.  Now I understood.  She thought the men were going to take her away.  The legal proceedings must have brought back vivid memories of her being relinquished by her birthmom - which coincidentally was in a courtroom in Ethiopia 2 years ago almost to the day.  We quickly tried to calm her and explain to her that we are her forever family and that she will be our daughter forever.  The reassurance was not enough to overcome the reality of the memories that must have flooded her mind and her heart.

We left the courthouse which allowed her to begin to calm down and realize that everything was OK and that she was not being taken away.  She slowly began to calm down and the brightness in her eyes began to return.  We then headed to Perkins with the whole family for breakfast.  Some bacon and eggs were what she needed.  She loves her protein and the heavy cholesterol proved to be soothing to her heavy heart.

How do we process all of that?  We're thankful for our beautiful girl, thankful for our family, thankful for how God places each person in a family, thankful that He can heal the deepest wounds, thankful that her adoption is full and complete, thankful that our adoption in Christ is full and complete, thankful that she cannot be stolen away from us, thankful that we cannot be stolen away from Christ.

It was an emotional day.  But we are together as a family.  Forever.