18 September 2017

Last night, we wrote letters to our children in Ethiopia. Ken wrote personal letters to each of them, and I wrote one letter to all three. I wrote the advice I would give them if they were here, living in our home.

Sometimes when I write I think it's for the benefit of the reader, but really it benefits me the most.

So I re-read my letter this afternoon, trying to believe the things I wrote last night--in light of today's circumstances. 

And as I read, I wondered if some of you could benefit from these reminders as well. So insert your own name, as needed, below.

"My dear children, I love you so much and I think about you every day. I look forward to the day when we can see each other again.

As you go back to school after the rainy season break, I want you to remember how important it is to choose your friends wisely. Stay away from kids who lead you into temptation or pressure you to do bad things. Choose friends who are kind, honest, encouraging, and who have good character. 

Tigray, Ethiopia

Always cherish your special friends. Forgive quickly, and don’t let misunderstandings become arguments or end a friendship. You will make mistakes, but always try to do your best. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

When you experience disappointment or hurt, as we all do, don’t keep thinking about those situations or become bitter. Give them to God, because He can take all those bad things and use them for your good.
The road leading to our children's orphanage

M....Our youngest daughter

Remember that God is for you, not against you. He loves you so much, and I am praying that He will be very real in your life. I am asking Him to answer your prayers and speak to you through the Bible and in your dreams.
Me with M and M

God is directing every step your feet take. He knows the path you are on, and when the future seems uncertain, remember that He can make a way out of no way.

In the Bible, the Israelites didn’t know how to escape their bad situation with the Egyptians. But God had a plan. They started to journey to the Promised Land, but then they came to the mighty Red Sea, and the Egyptians were chasing them. They had nowhere to go. But God opened up the sea and made a pathway right through it! Nobody knew it was possible, but with God nothing is impossible. Nothing! He can do anything!

God delights in every detail of your life, and your prayers will be answered at just the right time. If you feel lonely, remember that you are never alone. God is with you. And even though we are many miles apart, we are together in heart and in spirit.

M...our oldest daughter
You have a mom and a dad and a little brother who all love you very, very much. And so many people are praying for you in the United States… aunts and uncles, cousins, grandmas and grandpas, friends at church, friends at school, friends in our neighborhood… hundreds of people who know your names and love you and want the very best for you. Someday you will meet them and they will say, “Your mom and dad showed us your photos, and I was praying for you!”
D, M, me, and M

Listen closely because God wants you to hear His voice. The Bible says He is a Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. He is whispering to you and saying: “I made you. I love you. I have a purpose and a plan for your life. You are so special to me, and I am going to do amazing things in your life—things that are so good that you can’t even imagine them! Be patient. Keep believing.” 

D—my handsome, strong son: Hold your head up high. You are a child of God, and you will change the world. I love you, D.

M—my beautiful, sweet oldest daughter: Lift up your head, and listen. Your prayers will be answered. Let love in, and be joyful. I love you, M.

M—my charming, pretty youngest daughter: Guard your heart, for your beauty comes from inside, and keep smiling because your happiness warms the heart of everyone you meet. I love you, M.  

Until next time, close your eyes and remember a hug from me. 

17 July 2017

Letting Go

I noticed I haven't blogged since St. Patrick's Day, and since we're now mid-July, I figured it was time. But I have a good excuse.

I've been preparing to send my son to college.

OK, it's not college. (Not that he isn't brilliant enough to go. But since he's six, he still needs to learn algebra.)

It's summer camp.

A WHOLE.WEEK of summer camp. Gone from me for five days. Me, the maxi-me, separated from my mini-me for five days and nights.

Ok, it does end at 4 pm each day, but he'll be exhausted and going to bed early, so it may as well be overnight.

And if you could peek into my brain, (and clearly you don't want to), you would experience a jumbled mess of emotion and planning, and fear and excitement that would rival any mama sending her baby off to college across the country. Or in another country.

Camp--I mean summer camp--I mean summer day camp--is a lot like that. Granted, it's not across state lines, but we do cross at least two city lines.

And I fear they don't let mommies just drop in to make sure their babies don't need a bandaid or a hug or an extra water bottle or a fingernail-trimming-because-the-dirt-under-the-nail-is-to-embedded-to-removed-by-normal-washing.

And you know, my son has only ever gone to half-day preschool and kindergarten, so we've never done the lunch box thing. And late last night, as I was packing his brand-new Bento lunchbox, I realized I may or may not have ever taught him how to open those pesky containers. You have to get the round corner of the lid lined up with the rounded corner of the container, find the tab, and pull. Really hard. And he's only six. What if he can't get it open and he's too embarrassed to ask for help and so he goes all day without nourishment from the ham and cheese extra mayo on a soft sandwich roll and the extra thin Oreos and squeezable apple sauce and other nutritionally questionable food items I've carefully selected for him?

There's more. Like changing into his swim suit for water activities without mommy inspecting him to make sure it's not backward and everything is tucked into the proper slots. And sunscreen! Will his teenage counselor know how to apply it to his lily-white skin in the "thick and gloppy" way that ensures he isn't crispy by noon? And his new backpack--what if he doesn't recognize it and thinks it got lost?


Letting go is hard you guys.

And then this morning he says, "Mommy, can I ask you something?"

I braced myself, knowing this could be a moment to calm his fears and prevent psychotherapy when he turns 20 and is dealing with abandonment issues.

"Yes, honey, what is it?"

"What does a duck call quick sand?"

Oh my gosh. He has fears of quicksand! Is their sand at the camp? Will he fall in and be swallowed up?

"Quack sand! Get it? QUACK sand!"

Sigh. Big sighs. Deep breaths. We're going to be OK.

16 March 2017


This St. Patrick's Day is brought to you by the letter B.

B is for Bored.

It's also brought to you by the number 2.

As in, my son has been home sick from school for 2 days.

And he was bored. So was mommy.

But since Mommy likes arting, it was pretty much a perfect day.

19 January 2017

Debunking Childhood Songs, an Adoption Update, and a Prayer Request

No doubt you’ve heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”

I hate that saying.

First, it puts the burden on the one who needs help. And second. it’s contrary to everything I read in the Bible.

In fact, the Bible says God delights in helping those who are weary, helpless, and fresh out of options. His power is made perfect in weakness. His timing is perfect, and no good thing does He withhold. That’s what I read, and that’s what I’ve experienced.

As most of you know, after a 3-year long adoption process, we had a successful court date in Ethiopia at the end of December. We were so thankful when a federal judge officially granted our adoption of Dawit, Meron, and Menalush. But now, 23 days later, we still don’t have custody. These weeks have been emotional and difficult because while these children are legally ours, we aren’t able to be with them.

The reasons are purely political. The region where they are from (and where their current orphanage is located) remains opposed to international adoption. So, while we have a federal adoption decree from Ethiopia, their particular region within Ethiopia is refusing to release them.

Our kids are in the Tigray Region.

Our lawyer in Ethiopia has spent the last few weeks in and out of various court buildings and government offices seeking the release of our children, but he continues to encounter one roadblock after another. The details are far too complicated to share, and if it wasn’t so tragic, it would be comically bizarre.

The next step is a court date next Tuesday. In theory, the judge should force the region to comply with the adoption at that hearing. We are hopeful, but we are also realistic that it may take more time. It’s the “back and forth,” as our agency calls it, of political pawns and powerless puppets.

So we continue to ask for your prayers for our children and our family. Please pray that God would soften and convict the hearts of the governing officials and that they would immediately release our kids so we can finally get our children to the capital city (Addis Ababa), start their physical exams for immigration (another 8 weeks), and then bring them home.

I know many of you are shaking your heads, saying this makes no sense. We agree. It’s hard to explain something we don’t understand ourselves. But we are trusting God to make order out of chaos and to intervene where we cannot. This process has tested our faith, but we have seen so many miracles that we can’t deny His goodness, His love for our family, and His sovereign reign over … well, everything. And everyone.

In the Gospel of Mark, a father who is seeking help for his child says to Jesus, “I believe that with God all things are possible, but help my unbelief!”

That’s how I feel a lot of the time. I believe God, but I’m human. I have doubts and fears like everyone, so I need help with my unbelief. The great thing is that whether I believe or not, the Truth remains.

There’s a song I learned as a child in Sunday School. The lyrics say:
“God said it.
I believe it.
And that settles it for me.”

It’s a cute song…but the middle sentence isn’t necessary. God said it, and that settles it.

He cares for orphans. He loves our children.
And He will work this out for our joy and His glory.

16 January 2017

MLK Words: Free Printables

Some of my favorite MLK quotes.

If you'd like to print, click on an image, copy, and paste into your document.

07 January 2017

Luxurious Hope
When I was in high school, my friend Shelby lived in a house with a hot tub. It was outside on the back deck, and one wintry evening, she invited a bunch of friends to use it. I remember how fun it was to race the few freezing steps from the back door in our swim suits to the steamy hot water and jump in. Foggy clouds of condensation encircled us, and we laughed and talked and had so much fun.

Until we had to get out and run those few freezing steps back into the house, soaking wet.

I don't have a hot tub in my home, but I have created the cheap-o-hack version. On a cold wintry day, when the temperature is hovering around zero, I take the hottest shower I can stand...with the bathroom window wide open.

It's luxurious.

The added bonus is that I get a great view of our backyard. Our bathroom window is up high, but since I'm tall I can manage to peer out and see what's going on.

This morning, as the outside thermometer showed a giant goose egg--zero degrees--not too much was going on in the back yard.

The trees are brown and bare. The ground is covered with last fall's dead leaves. There are no children laughing or playing or climbing or swinging or sliding.

But I didn't see the barrenness. I saw this:

I was day dreaming about our Annual Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt.

I remembered all the children listening so intently as they heard the story about the empty tomb.

The kids, perched in the clubhouse, discovering the treats inside their plastic eggs.

And this.

New life.

Hope, pushing through the dead leaves and stray sticks, declaring the goodness of springtime. Of God.

For the past two and a half years, I've dreamed about our three Ethiopian children joining us for this wonderful celebration of Christ's resurrection. Of spring. Of all-things-new. Of neighborhood and community and friendship.

And this year...finally...


Lord willing and the Ethiopian-creek-don't-rise, they will be here!

And that gives me hope. HOPE. And joy. And a heart filled with song and toes-a-tapping.

I can't stop smiling.

More than four million orphans in Ethiopia. But this spring, that number will be four million (MINUS THREE).

Hope. The best gift ever.

Today is Christmas in Ethiopia, and my wish for you is that you'll have hope as well. Don't stop believing. It may seem like you've been praying for that thing forever, but hold on.

Hold on to hope.

Melkam Genna. (Merry Christmas!)

01 December 2016

Why I Was Angry Today

This is a re-post from 2013. I repost it every Dec. 1 because I believe it is so important. Even if you've read it before, it's good to reacquaint youself with the facts.

Today, Ken and I attended a CPR and First Aid training class. The presenter was a firefighter/EMT from our community. And I liked her. She was funny. Really funny. Did I mention likeable? She made the training enjoyable...even at 8 am on a Saturday morning.

However, part way through the training, something was said that really upset me.The trainer was talking about CPR and the new recommendations for compressions and mouth-to-mouth. She said something to the effect of:

"As a non-medical professional, you are considered a Good Samaritan, and you aren't legally bound to give mouth to mouth. And if I were you, I wouldn't. Why? Because people are gross. And you never know what gross diseases people have. They might have hepatitis, TB, or AIDS. And although the experts say you can't get AIDS from saliva, I don't believe it."

I'm sorry. What did you say? Surely I must have mis-heard you. But no, you keep talking. You aren't joking. You actually believe what you're saying. 

I have several friends who are HIV-positive, and this stigma has got to stop. It's a lie. It's a fear-based lie. I was shocked and disappointed that this medical "authority" would disseminate false information. I was so stunned at the time that I didn't speak up. I wish I had. But now I will...for my friends with HIV, for children with HIV, for anyone touched by HIV. I have to speak up...as a Christian, as a promoter of the truth, as a human being.

First of all, people with Hepatitis, TB, and AIDS are not gross. Some of the symptoms of their disease may be gross, but they are not. They are human beings, dearly loved by God and created in His image.

Second, this woman didn't seem to know the difference between AIDS and HIV. HIV is a virus, that if left untreated can cause AIDS. Because of advancements in treatment and testing, a person with HIV may never have AIDS. In fact, people who are being treated with antiretroviral drugs usually have an undetectable viral load, meaning the virus cannot be detected in their blood. Therefore, transmission is very unlikely under any circumstances, and most of them live out normal life spans with minimal health issues. With regular treatment, they can marry, have babies, and do just about anything an HIV-negative person can do.

How is HIV transmitted? A person can contract HIV through mutual blood or semen contact. This most often occurs during unprotected sex or by sharing needles during injection drug use. There are also cases where a mother passes the virus on to her newborn or transmits the virus via breastfeeding. These instances usually occur with people who are not receiving ongoing antiretroviral medications.
If you aren't having sex with an HIV+ person, sharing needles, or being breastfed by a person with HIV, the risk of becoming infected is virtually non-existent.  
Can HIV be transmitted by saliva? No. In some persons living with HIV, the virus has been detected in saliva, but in extremely low quantities. Contact with saliva alone has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV, and there is no documented case of transmission from an HIV-infected person spitting on another person.

Can a person get HIV from casual contact with an infected person?
No. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, church, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body.

Let me repeat: HIV does not survive well outside the human body. You cannot catch HIV through saliva. You cannot catch HIV by touching HIV+ blood unless you have a gaping wound or open sore and it enters your blood stream. If you do have open wounds, you should be using gloves when dealing with anyone's blood.

Friends, PLEASE end the stigma. If the Church is not proclaiming the truth, showing love, and giving compassion to those affected by HIV, who will?

I got this information from the CDC.gov, TheStigmaProject.org, and TheBody.com. Some of it I copied and pasted; some I paraphrased. For more information, visit any of their sites or gather your own research from reputable sources.

Today is World AIDS Day. Feel free to share this post if you want to end the stigma.