Friday, December 3, 2010

Burdens

Climbing Entoto Mountain we saw this:
Elderly women collecting fallen Eucalyptus leaves from day break to day end, only stopping to carry their large loads down the side of a mountain on their contorted backs in hopes of collecting 3-5 Birr, the equivalent to $0.25/load.  Their lives are a meager existence.  But their joy is not lacking.

At the top of the mountain and on the front side, this was a common scene:
Children and adults without shoes, shoes so small their toes bleed and curl, with only one shoe they were fortunate enough to find on the side of the road, shoes breaking apart and held together by a string, are common place.  

We knew to expect this.  That's why we were prepared to deliver the 30 pair of Crocs we purchased in the states:


What we didn't know was God had a better plan.  A plan that involved the Spirit inclining our ears to hear, our hearts to listen, and our hands to obey.

These women, carrying their load of fallen wood, crossed our paths:  

We stopped together to share bread when they asked if we would like to try to carry their loads, their burdens.  The 140+ lb. weight, which explained why many are crippled in their later life,  deterred us from taking more that 10 steps as the twigs from the wood dug into our backs.



Realizing the true weight of these women's burdens was from the Lord.  He quickly paralleled in my heart the burden of hurt I try to carry for Ethiopia, her needs, and my inability to shoulder it on my own.  

With my head hung down to hide my tears, I noticed the feet of these women...bleeding from shoes too small and with a shoes filleted at the toes to accommodate growth...I felt the Spirit direct me to remove both my shoes and the shoes of the woman next to me, to clean her feet, and place my shoes on her feet.  I didn't take notice of the 2 men watching us from a far (in a picture above).  Shortly after, these men and many others began to follow us, talking loudly and gathering others.  A bit worried, but absorbed more in what had passed, our friends soon told us what the crowd was saying, "Their are billionaires in Ethiopia, who have never done this.  Surely the Lord reigns and Jesus lives if He has sent these women to serve and sacrifice for us."  My heart was wrenched, but thrilled.  1.) Because the Spirit directed my steps.  2.) Because we could NEVER have scripted affecting those around us in this manner for HIM. 3.) Because the testimony left behind was of HIM, not us!  We walked down the mountain barefoot but rejoicing because He brought glory to himself in the midst of me.





On my first trip to Ethiopia, I left carrying a mighty burden.  A burden that almost strangled me in my sleep, in my dreams, in my daily life, as I cooked, as I shopped, as I lived.  God knew the burden I was trying to carry was too heavy to assume on my own.  He had never intended this.  He used this trip to rivet me to my soul and teach me that He alone can bear the oppressions of the world; but His plan for me, for believers, does involve sharing in the burdens of those hurting, in need, starving, and dying.









Wednesday, December 1, 2010

LoPa LLC.'s Premier

As three moms, who fell in love with Ethiopia, we were compelled to find a way to empower the giftedness of the Ethiopian people.  While in country, each of us understood the artisans we met had true gifting; but we also realized they lacked an audience for their products.  Thus, after thought, prayer, and dreaming, the inception of LoPa occurred.  LoPa has been kept under wraps for about 7 months as we've worked out details.  Finally, after our return trip to Ethiopia to network and purchase for the local artisans, our micro-enterprise business is preparing for the first show.

The idea behind LoPa is to network with gifted artisans and artists, who lack a rostrum, purchase their products to sell in the USA, and then donate the proceeds to humanitarian relief in Ethiopia to create life change for the country we love.  LoPa sells stand alone product and art, which don't require the story of the artisan for promotion...their story is the bonus.  Each artisan we promote is Ethiopian, gifted in their venue, and committed to quality products.  None of LoPa's product are from a factory.  Each product boasts the handiwork of the locals.


Upon our last trip, LoPa was able to select our humanitarian relief organization, which was more difficult than one might realize.  Two of us visited Korah with group.  Korah is the city dump, which has been forged into a community of 75,000 people for the poorest of the poor.  It is said that Korah is the most densely populated Kebeles (neighborhoods) for prostitution (mostly children), brothels, and "bars".  Korah draws from the lepers, those infected with HIV and living with full-blown AIDS (most without meds), child prostitutes, orphans, the starving and dying elderly beggars, and families, who know nothing else and struggle through starvation each and every day.


The smell of Korah proclaims to visitors you have arrived.  Smoldering trash mountains loom in the horizon.  Trash rivers stand between the homes and the working part of the dump.  Birds of prey constantly circle above searching for dying flesh that is too common at Korah.  Each night the people of Korah must stand watch for the hyenas that feed from the dump and the parishioners of Korah.  The scenes from Slum Dog Millionaire come close to expressing the sentiments of Korah- but only close.  The hopelessness of seeing a mother feed the baby strapped to her back from the putrescent food she finds foraging through trash juxtaposes the smile and kindness she offers as she engages you.  There are no words to explain the sentiments of the heart or the impact of visiting Korah.  I cannot imagine the impact of living in Korah.


Thus, LoPa has decided to couple our efforts with two NGOs on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who are introducing a long-term feeding program and scholarship program in Korah.  LoPa will donate the proceeds directly to Korah's relief.  Come help us help those desperate, but hopeful for change, at Korah by attending the first LoPa show on December 8th and 9th from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Paula Brookshire will host the show at 5925 Brixworth Drive in Tyler, TX.  She can be reached at 903-372-9866.  You can also check out our merchandise on our facebook page:  LoPa Art.







Monday, November 22, 2010

Busy with Business

Yesterday, we visited the Artisan Bazaar/Market, which was scheduled for the following weekend and one of the primary reasons for our travel.  This is the best place for us to network with local artisans.  I am so grateful for God’s provision in placing the correct vendors in our paths and coordinating our times.  We were able to network and establish the relationships needed with a variety of local artisans.  The Ethiopian artisans are very gifted.  One artist in particular, Yami, has extraordinary handmade leather products.  Unmatched to say the least.

Today, we visited a Rasta Free Art Village.  The art was interesting.  The people were more interesting.  Kind.  Gentle. Soft spoken.  The majority of the sculptures boast up-cycled items.  Literally, the artists collect trash and construct sculptures from toilets to trains and on to animals.  It is very eclectic.  The Rasta artists are peaceful community, and they nurture their land.  In the midst of the busy, bustling Addis, the Rasta Free Art Village is an oasis.  Two of the artists, who paint in the village, produced paintings worth the flight to Ethiopia.

Next, we met with Aklilu, one of our favored artists.  His paintings bedeck my kitchen and family room.  His colors and shapes captivate the eye.  This young man’s working conditions are nicer than many, but Americans would be offended if asked to work in his studio.  But Aklilu.  Ahhh.  What creative genius.  We accrued many pieces from Aklilu.  You won’t want to miss these pieces.

After visiting a gamut of artists, our day’s highlight was visiting our friend/brother/driver’s home.  Modest, but appreciated, Solomon rents a two room space.  His bedroom and sitting boost his confidence in hosting us.  He is most proud of his outdoor cooking space and private toilet.  Being allowed into Soli’s home felt like an initiation of sorts and left me feeling more connected to him than ever.  The car ride back to BeJoe hosted my first real cry in Ethiopia this trip (first of many, I am sure).  Rectifying my love for Ethiopia, its people, my son’s culture, my habesha family, the joy it holds, and my love for my family and friends in the states is impossible.  In the meantime, I am trying to simply embrace each moment of each day.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bet Negn

The flight to Addis felt shorter than before.  Maybe it was my preoccupation with a darling 14 month old.  Maybe it was because I knew my Habesha Betasub (Ethiopian Family) waited in anticipation to embrace after a six month interlude. Whatever the case, Genet, Marta, Aster, Blein, Mimi, and, of course, our darling Solomon welcomed us at the airport with open arms.  Post arrival and Visas, we could see our betasub past baggage claims, through Customs, and behind the gates.  We could NOT get to them quickly enough.  Customs did not appreciate our expectancy to reach our friends. With an extra tip, the bag porter proved persuadable to push our bags to the front of the line; and before we knew it, we were united.  I cannot express how full and complete my heart felt finally, minus Josh, Hunter, and Tiger.

On our first trip to Addis, the unfamiliar smells and sounds shook my base.  Everything seemed unfamiliar.  The smokey haze of Addis welcomed us with familiarity this time around.  Every site, every road marker, every acquaintance added another level of comfort.  And then, BeJoe, the guesthouse where we stay…ahhh, BeJoe.  Three dozen roses from Solomon added a bit of glitz to our lovely rooms.  The BeJoe girls stayed and visited with us into the wee hours of the morning.  Gift delivery ensued.  We passed out pictures and cards from all of our BeJoe friends in America.  The girls LOVED the updates.  At 3:30, we finally headed to bed.  Peaceful sleep restored the tired eyes, and we have been running hard since.  Jet lagg and all my heart and mouth can finally say, "Bet Negn" or "I am home."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Almost There

Only three days and my hiney will be stuck in an undersized, stiff seat next to two children for 8400 miles.  Yep, we are ready to return to Ethiopia.  As much as I HATE flying, you must know I love Ethiopia even more.  Otherwise, I wouldn't endure this stretch.  Our bags are close to packed and my mind is racing with what still remains to be accomplished.  This trip will prove much harder for me as Josh and our two older sons will not trek back with us.

We return for many reasons.  Some I'm open to share, some I'm holding closer until the right time.  What I do know is that I covet your prayers.  Pray for our safety, Mez's sleeping, my anxiety during the flight and our stay, my husband and children I will leave behind, our health, my extended family, who will celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time in 36 years without my father present (thank you divorce...you suck), our opportunity to be the light and share the love of Christ, our birth mom, whom we will see again, and my ability to share the love and hope of Christ with her as well as rejoice in the son we share.  Pray for our luggage, our words, our time to be used well, and our overall witness during major jet lag.  Pray for those we love, whom I am already grieving leaving AGAIN (and I haven't even arrived).  Pray that God's plan for our time, both present and future, would be clear.  Mostly, pray that in all things HE will receive the glory He is due.

I will update my blog and keep you abreast of all we are doing.  Can't wait to see you on the other side...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Plagiarism



I stole, err, umm, borrowed this post from a friend.   He did such a great job expressing my sentiments on the gospel in adoption/foster care, why not re-post his words.  Reading through the Old Testament, I am reminded of the importance of a  knowledge of history, knowing our history, writing down/memorializing His hand in our lives as not to forget His power, our legacy that He provides, and His redemption.  My friend's post hits well.  ENJOY!
Almost four months ago now, we received our first foster child.  That night, we were awakened by a phone call around midnight and were asked if we’d be willing to accept her into our family for a time.
After some quick prayer and even quicker conversation, we agreed to do it.  Less than an hour later, this tired little girl was escorted to our house by 3 people from Child Protective Services.
This past week, we got the news our time with this little girl will be coming to a close come December.  They have found a new home for her and her siblings to be adopted together.
All this talk of her leaving, though, has made me do some thinking about her time here with us.  Crazy enough, after thinking through much, I’ve come up with one regret that I have about this whole process with her:
We should not have washed the clothes she came to us in.
The night we got her, she arrived dirty.  Her clothes were too small, stained with old food, and reeked of smoke.  It was a beautiful picture of what we ALL offer in and of ourselves.  We bring nothing good to the table.
With our next child, I’d love to keep clothes like that, put them in a Ziploc bag, and use them for a huge lesson later in life.
Now with our current foster daughter, she is leaving far too early for her to understand the significance.  But for future kids that we might foster, or even adopt, I’d love to keep this in mind.
This is yet another reason why I love fostering and adopting.  The gospel becomes clearer and clearer:
We have nothing good to offer God.  This is all of us.  Our clothes are dirty, torn, ugly, and smelly.  God opens the door and invites us in.  He comes to each of us, takes our nasty clothes, and offers us clean ones in their place.  We come to him worthless, and we leave unworthy.
In a time when many try to work hard to be accepted by Him, it is a visual picture of His grace, mercy, and love.  We bring nothing.  He gives everything.
This is one lesson I hope to not easily forget.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lucky

I've not ever been a fan of lucky.  The word, that is.  I've not found many (any) situations to be chance, accidental, or coincidental.  Mostly, it grinds on me because it takes all credit away from the ONE, who really governs life and breath, action and the end.  You can imagine then, how it unnerves me to hear how lucky Mezekir is to call us mom and dad.  I don't like this for a gamut of reasons, but let's just start by my saying, really, there is NO luck involved here.  Yes, I do understand the manner in which it is intended.  Really, though, nothing in his life, our situation, his placement, or our parenting him revolves around luck.  Nothing.


Holding him yesterday, wondering about his first months, my mind wondered back to his beginnings.  I thought too much of Awtash, his first mom.  I grieved just remembering her story.  His story.  Then, I thought of the other children I know, who are with their second families.  Some saw their parents die of starvation, some of water borne parasites/illness, a few whose father murdered their mother, some the product of rape, some whose mother's died in childbirth and fathers followed soon after and families couldn't afford to feed them, some whose parents contracted HIV and died of AIDS, a few whose parents were children themselves, some, who poverty stripped of all dignity and opportunity until what was left was not even recognizable as a person, others who were simply born "imperfect" in a system that only apprises perfection.  I could go on, but you get the point.  In every circumstance, there is grief, hurt, human failure, affects of sin, unfairness, but then the shining glimmer of God's redemption and sovereignty.  This is not luck.  How obtuse to refer to the situations that jerk children out of the precious grip of their families and culture and into another home as lucky.


I suppose this goes back to our sense that the best place for any child is here, in America, being westernized, surrounded by materialism and luxury.  The idea that somehow I'm a savior to my son and his story frustrates.  I'm not amazing.  I am just human, a failure often, impatient and myopic, sometimes even bossy and unkind or downright nasty.  I promise I didn't save Mez.  That is the work of One far greater.  It is not a result of my parenting him.  He doesn't owe me an extra ounce of gratitude or kindness.  Nor is America the answer to the problems in Ethiopia.   Don't get me wrong, adoption is vital to the lives of orphans.  Orphans are suffering.  Left as orphans, they are more likely to incur more pain, suffering, and hopelessness.  But we are not their saviors.


"Luck" for my son, would have looked like being born into a country that could support its people, to a mother and father, who could provide for his needs, a family that celebrated his first breath, hope of education and a future, and an enmeshment into a people and country that share his same history.  Sovereignty and redemption, on the other hand, placed him into my arms, life, and heart.  Luck, in my opinion, is best left to blackjack, poker, and lottery tickets.  









Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Like It

I remember when I delivered my first three children, the moment the nurse placed each one in my arms, the moment I put him to breast, the moment he nursed for the first time, the way my touch and my smell comforted him, the perfect fit of co-sleeping, and the way from the moment of arrival each would nuzzle into me as though it was the safest haven.  There was a meshing.  A melting in of sorts.  A sense of belonging.  As moms, those are the moments that convince us to forge into the next pregnancy and preserver through delivery.

In all the beauty of parenting through adoption, one of the things that did not initially emerge was that amalgamation.  Not that there wasn't a hope.  Not that there was a bond.  But the innate, inherent enmeshing was not inceptive.  I wasn't even sure it would come.  I didn't know how much I missed it.

The first month together, Mezekir deplored rocking to sleep and cuddling.  He preferred banging his head against a mattress.  At night, he found comfort only in his bottle and a song.  Slowly, he allowed us to rock him to sleep, yet in the midst of upset and angst, his solstice remained in solitude, self-soothing with a bottle or pacifier.  As of late, Mez has learned to love my arms, my lap, my protection.  It has just been within the last week that we have marked a revolution... those small markers that when they hit you realize how much you'd longed for them...without even realizing it.  Those split-second occurrences rekindle the "new mom" feelings that remind us it was partly for this that we were created.

For the first time, four days ago Mezekir laid his head on my shoulder, placed his brown, pudgy hands on my bare arms, began to rub them, and drifted off to sleep.  I immediately recognized the milestone.  One step closer.   According to my attachment parenting ways, I've craved the sound of him sleeping on my chest and the feeling of our rhythmic breathing while I hold him and take in the fleeting moments of "now".  For the last five nights, Mez has done just that.  Now, around the house, he teeters up, grabs a knee, and lifts his hands to be held.  But the best remains.  He's happier.  He's comfortable.  He knows he's ours and we are his.  No more avoiding eye contact.  No more turning from side to side to prohibit others from engaging.  Something is different.  And I like it.

It occurred to me, so much of this is deep seeded from the beginnings of his life.  It also occurred to me that I don't fully understand who he is, what life really is/ has been for him, or will be.  In my love for him I have overestimated my ability to empathize and understand.  But today, something is different, and I like it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkins: Orange, Brown, and White.

With four children spanning a large age range, I must admit, my younger chickens miss out on a few of the "classic" opportunities.  Our oldest two attended the best preschool, enjoyed play groups at the park, had picnics in the rain, walked slowly at the zoo to investigate each animal, sat on Santa's lap, rode the firetruck, visited the police station, grew beans in an egg carton, made play dough, finger painting at will, dove head-first into freshly raked piles of leaves, and went to the pumpkin patch each fall to select their own pumpkins.  But it does get old.  Taking the almost 13 year old man child, the 9 year old diva-born princess along with our own 4 year old comedian elect, and the bustling baby boy to experience these precious moments isn't the same. It's repetitive and a bit mundane.  I was sure it lacked the sparkle and intrigue of the new world we have entered:  Pre-teen Domain.  It's not that I'm resistant to repeating this memory, it just looses it's oomph and urgency the third and fourth time around.  

This year, since I am president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and act as social director of the East Texas Gladney Family Association, I put together the gatherings for the group.  Great chance to kill 2 birds with one stone.  We headed for some forced family fun at none other than the Moore Pumpkin Patch.  And truth be told, it was splendid.  I had forgotten how much fun those simple moments as a family without electronic based excitement, the next thrill, the sardonic nature of a group of teens, or the "newest thing to do" could be.  All of it was fun, feeding the pigs, shucking corn, pumping water, playing tag in the hay bail maze, and finding the choice pumpkins.  My favorite moment remains:  Preston announced to all on the hayride, "I chose a girl and a boy pumpkin.  See, look how long HIS stem is."  Somethings really are priceless. I loved watching my cute pumpkins find their gourds, and I thought you might enjoy the pictures.  












Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FOOD, Not just for living any more!

From all sources, Mezekir is said to mean "Remembered One or Memorial".  I'm thinking this is inaccurate.  We are leaning toward redefining his name.  Maybe something more fitting, "Mighty Consumer, who takes in inordinate amounts of food."  And although I jest at redefinition, I'm beyond serious in regards to his consumption.  

Our pantry door boasts a specific squeak or melodic song as it gives access to the treasures inside.   Mezekir has learned the 'pantry song'.  He responds in immediate demand...stomping feet, squealing, bouncing his massive toddler frame, and swinging his head back in forth in true Oromo-tribe style.  The gage on his round, bulging belly must not work because whether well-fed or nearing the next meal, this baby knows no bounds.  Quick run-down for yesterday alone:  Breakfast- 8oz. whole goat milk, 2 eggs, 1 piece of Ezekiel bread, raspberries, and 1/2 banana.  Snack- dried peas, raisins, and Dr. Crackers and 8 oz. water.  Lunch- cheese stick, cooked peas, turkey (about 2 oz.), 1/4 apple, and 1/2 hemp tortilla, and 1/4 cup roasted butternut squash, washed down with 5 oz. water.  Snack-umm, not sure as every time the pantry was cracked, there stood Mez begging in true Mez style.  Dinner- 1/2 chicken breast, 10 small tomatoes, 2 carrots, sweet potatoes julian cut, 1/2 banana and 5 oz. water.  Soon to follow 8 oz whole goat milk.  AND as I toted him off to sweet slumbers he protested loudly with knowledge the family remained in the kitchen snacking without him.


No parasites, thank you.  We've checked recently.  No malabsorption.  We've checked.  No long-term history of malnutrition in ET; we checked.  Maybe Purvis' idea of neuro/physio-development and its link to food=comfort applies when a child has spent only short periods in an institution?  Whatever the case, we remain sure Mez's food intake is not just for living.  This is about comfort, people.  He loves his food!  If food were a love language, we would know Mez's.

Monday, October 4, 2010

HIV+

So, this weekend, I realized I still have a few strongholds or prejudices I haven't worked through.  I attended the T4A Conference.  A question was posed by a parent of an adoptee, who is HIV+.  She asked, "If your son or daughter made friends with a child at school, who was HIV+, how would you handle that friendship.  Would you allow the friendship to grow?  Would you encourage it?  Would you be fearful?  Would you expect your friend's parents to tell you he/she was HIV+?"  She continued, "If your child contracted HIV while in the hospital, would you feel inclined to disclose it to his or her friends?  Would you tell the schools?  Would you tell your church?  Would you want to hide it knowing the majority of the public is uneducated in the truth of HIV, and it would surely mean your child suffered from being ostracized?  Do you feel there is a difference in what you would expect of HIV+ persons and how you would want your child's health information handled?"  I must say, I couldn't answer these questions initially, at least not the way I wanted.

This parent and another of HIV+ adoptees and a PID doctor and nurse practitioner spoke on HIV and AIDS and the myths surrounding them.  My knowledge was antiquated.  Little did I know that HIV/AIDS no longer carries a title of "terminal disease".  Instead, it is a chronic illness, which is easily controlled and readily preventable.  In the US, an HIV+ person need only take 2 pills a day to live a long, healthy, uninhibited life.  REALLY?  There's never been 1 single diagnosed case of HIV transference from family member to family member in a normal family environment.  All the myths of cut to cut, accidents riding bikes, bumps on the trampoline, shaving accidents as teenagers, or a bloody car wreck transference was put to bed.  I never realized how manageable this disease is!

Why then are millions dying in Sub-Saharan Africa of AIDS?  Well, the ARVs and AZT needed to control HIV/AIDS is still not readily available.  Those who do receive them do not have them administered properly (as they are usually orphans in group facilities).  More over, even when these meds are available, the life saving antibiotics for secondary infections are not available.  My heart broke to realize the difference in a child, who is HIV+, being raised in a third world country or America is the difference of life and death.  LIFE and DEATH.

Fear of transference doesn't keep me from an HIV+ adoption.  I'm going to lay it out there; the fear of social (used loosely) isolation and social martyrdom of my 4 children and husband halts me in my path.  I don't want them to be shunned or hurt.  I don't want to be the bulls eye.  I don't want to ruin my husband's career.  I know there's a theme and it circulates around "I".  What a sad truth.  Due a possible inconvenience or social abandonment, I would forgo adopting a child that God placed on my heart.

Then it also hit me.  The spiritual parallel.  God came to me when I was suffering from an incurable disease, sin.  Had He taken inventory of my status, judged my sicknesses, assessed my risks, considered the stigma of a relationship with me, or not wanted the weight of my current status, I would be left to my own demise.  If God had looked to my past to judge my future, I would surely perish.  If there ever was a stigma associated with the illness of sin, I carried it.  But instead of judging, He made the greatest sacrifice.  He gave what was perfect for my life.  And I was saved.  I cannot move past this yet.  I trust there is a reason this resounds in my heart and soul.  This story of redemption from a past and the promise of a future.   It's all too sweet for me to throw away and discount.

How would you answer that parent's questions?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Birthday Moments


Mezekir and Daddy mark the beginning of the day at the birthday sign.



Sweets for the Sweet.  Mez screamed for a bite each time we passed the table.



Although tentative at first, Mez eventually conquered the cake.




Mez reminded us...the crunchy paper is the best part of the gift.



Charlie the doll makes his debut.



Charlie and Mez are fast friends.



Tired from a long days work, Mez and Mommy commemorate the day of "1".

Saturday, September 18, 2010

1st Birthday

9 months and 8 days ago on a unremarkable normal December afternoon, our family celebrated the unofficial arrival of our newest, most desired son.  A tiny Mezekir arrived in our lives at 2 1/2 months old via an email, smiling, shining, bringing with him the joy God granted him in the depth of who he is not the circumstances of life.  Though for years we had dreamt of him, until that day, he remained a mere apparition, desire, a hope that one day God would bring to fruition.  Each day from that moment on, we imagined each detail of his round face, his latte colored skin, his almond-shaped, deep, dark eyes that peer into you, his growing hands and muffin-topped feet, and his tenacious personality.  And today.  Well, today, 5 1/2 months after wrapping our arms around him, we celebrate a year of Mez's life.  

A day, typically marked with great celebration and exuberance, grips my heart at the most inopportune moments.  Lighting candles...my mind strays.  Singing "Happy Birthday", I drift.  Unwrapping a gift yet I'm not longer present.  Too many times  (or maybe not enough times) today, my mind floats back to Mez's beginnings.  Nothing can harness the wandering mind.  My thoughts capitulate to the moments Mez entered the world.  I cannot help but wonder what marked that small moment in time for he and his birth mother.  Who was there?  Was his mother frightened?  Cold?  Alone?  Who held her hand through labor?  Cared for her after she delivered?  Was there any fanfare, celebration, recognition that a precious life just began.  Oh, and you, Awtash, our sweet birth mom.  What of you?  Do you mourn today?  Do you wonder of the life you grew inside of you?  Do you recall each detail of that rainy day in Mekele, Ethiopia?  Does a wafting odor in the city remind you of the heavy, sick smell of the small, dilapidated hospital where you birthed your son and catapult you back to that moment in your history?  Does this day of our celebration mark one of the most bittersweet days of your life?  Your son arrived.  Out of necessity, you chose more for the him than you could supply?  Could you possibly know of our love for our son, your son, the son that will forever link our lives?  He is our joy!  Oh, I wish I could share with you who he is and how we love him.  Then the chanting verse of "Happy Birthday" creeps into my ears, startles me, and brings me back to the moment.  A precious moment, Mezekir's 1st birthday celebration.

Mezekir LOVED his 1st cake.  He consumed the attention.  He demands a redo!  We committed to a no gift birthday, yet Charlie, a brown-skinned, boy baby doll by Blah Blah, caused us to succumb to one tangible gift.  And Charlie is Ca-Ute.  In lieu of gifts, this year we've decided to celebrate the day of Mezekir's birth by building a well in Ethiopia via Glimmer of Hope and naming it in honor of his birth mom.  Awtash Mekomia, who gave us the life of our son, will now be a life-giving well to people in Ethiopia.  WE couldn't anticipate a better way to honor both she and Mezekir and the new life placed in our family, arms, and hearts.  Mez, we love you.  Awtash, we love you.  And, Lord, thank you for the gift of this child.  Enjoy the photos.

Photos tomorrow!





Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Haze

A friend messaged the other day asking why my blog had gone black.  BLACK?  Really?  (Well, it is my new favorite color.)  I was thinking more of a light grey haze though.  With all the irons we have in the fire now, blogging has taken a back seat.  Plus, in a few weeks, I think we will be able to share some exciting news.  For now, you'll have to accept the grey haze with knowledge the vivid hues of a stay-at-home, home school, GFA president, mother of four, and wife to a busy man will resume soon enough.
XOXO,
L

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

November 7, 2010 Orphan Sunday


Why Love Orphans? from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.


Mark you calendar for November 7, 2010.  Ask your church how they will crusade for the fatherless this year.  In the meantime, worship the ONE who is the Father to all of the fatherless. Rejoice that in Him there are no orphans.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mezekir's Final Adoption

I should have learned to expect the unexpected by now...I'm still learning.  In all of the planning and anticipation of "the perfect day", the time arrives and it is not ever what we intended.  Let me say, this is too true for our welcoming of Mez as a US citizen and legal member of our family.   In an attempt to make memories, we invited all of our friends to join us for our re-adoption.  Unfortunately, holding court on a Wednesday morning at 7:45 a.m. 2 1/2 hours away from our hometown makes it difficult for friends to join in on our celebration.  A few friends and family blazed a trail to observe what they missed April 4th, 2010 in Addis Ababa.  But let's rewind.

Tuesday morning, our phone rang early (well early for the summer time).  A dear friend, who shall remain nameless unless she chooses to incriminate herself, was inquiring why she could not locate our family anywhere at the courthouse.  Oops!  I wasn't sure how to break the news that she arrived a day early and overzealous.  She graciously accepted the news.  And instead of calling it a total wash, she scoped out the scene and photographed herself in the courtroom.  Too funny!  Mez's life book will boast of this lone ranger waiting for dear Mez's re-adoption 24 hours later.

Now the same day, 15 minutes later, here at the home front, Hunter, our oldest son, and his friend woke and decided to begin the day with an early game of golf.  As said friend and Hunter perfected their swings, said friend stepped behind Hunter and met the end of his club...full force.  With his face filleted from eyebrow to mid-forehead and parents out of town, we threw the family into gear and trekked to the ER.  Twelve stitches and many tears (on my part, not the friend's) later, we began our trip to Fort Worth 3 hours post-planned with our every nerve firing.  We remained grateful our friend's eye was spared, there was no damage to the skull, and no further medical care is needed.  Whew!

Regardless of our late departure, we committed to an evening of celebration.  Our friends, who spent the month with us in Ethiopia, my sister's family, and my mom joined us for a cultural dinner at Addis Abeba in Richardson, TX.  I must say, after three months back in the states, we felt more at home eating dinner than we have since we left Ethiopia.  The kids toasted our chosen family and friends abroad.  We drank and ate in their honor. Cheers Habasha!  Then, we headed to Fort Worth.  
 
Cheer to Betasub!
Wat and injera.


Dinner for Men.
Shortly after arriving at the hotel, it was clear Hunter was sick.  He revered the porcelain god at the Sheraton until 4:00 a.m.  Hunter opted out of the court appearance.  My mom stayed with him.  Stacy and family could not make court due to a flooring catastrophe.  Our faithful friends accompanied us as far as the court house until I remembered all of our paperwork for the adoption remained in the hotel room.  Ever so graciously, they raced back and collected the papers.  They made it just in time to observed our adoption, act as our personal paparazzi, and cheer us on.
    
                     
                       Adoption Hearing.
Our attorney.

Our judge oozed of kindness.  He welcomed us to the bench, allowed our photographers to stand on the bench beside him to get the "best shots", came down, hugged and held Mez, appeared for many photo ops, and encouraged us in our journey.  I cried when Judge Carrolton purposed, "Up to this point your obligation has been moral.  From this moment on, your obligation to this child is legal, binding, and fully acknowledged by this nation.  Mezekir is now entitled to the same rights as your natural children, just as though he were born of you."  I felt the same flood of emotions as I did at the embassy in Addis.  God is so good in many ways.  I will never cease to wonder at his goodness and faithfulness in granting us our son.  I will never move past the miracle of spiritual adoption and the tangible nature of its revelation as we walked out the adoption of our son.  Need I say more?
Our Family, minus Hunter.
After court, we headed to the Gladney Center for Adoption.  Our Ethiopia team welcomed Mez.  It was their first time to see him.  Two years after meeting us, our friends and caseworkers were able to hold Mez.  Surely, they love seeing the full circle effect.
Ethiopia Team at Gladney (except Kristin)

At long last, Mezekir is officially a Knight.  I think it was official in our hearts the moment we dreamt of him, but there is joy in the knowledge it's legally binding.  Welcome home, Mez.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Almost There

July 28th is right around the corner.  At 7:45 a.m. in the Tarrant County Courthouse, we will readopt our son, Mezekir Knight.  Our readoption of Mezekir not only makes him an American citizen but is also the final step in this adoption process.  Any, who would like to attend, (and no, at 7:45 a.m. we don't expect too many takers) are welcome to meet us at 7:30 on the 5th floor.  From there we will head for a celebratory brunch in Dallas, so let us know if you will join!  I have to admit, a portion of my heart is sad Mez must relinquish his Ethiopian citizenship to become a member of the mighty US of A. But I'm ready to move forward and see what is in store next for the Knight Family of 6.  Keep your eyes and ears tuned in for new news.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ten Months and Ten Reasons I Love

Mezekir, only 3 1/2 months ago, joined our family.  Now ten months old, we celebrate another month of his life.  The reasons for my love cannot be answered.  The depths of my love cannot be measured.  The ways I love you are too many.  Here, we offer only a small tribute:  ten reasons we love you more and more every moment of every breath of every day.

1.  Your eyes are entrancing. Every time I look in them, I HAVE TO praise the mighty Creator.


2.  You are content with the smallest bits of attention and affection...but you revel in the love your family loves to lavish on you.  Thank you for accepting a love that seemed so foreign.

3.  You taught us more than we may ever teach you.  Many have said you are intended for great things.  The Maker of heaven and earth has already used you for many great things in our lives.

4.  You wiggle in delight each time you see your family. Arms flail. Legs thrash wildly. Full on delight. You love us because we first loved you, and this reminds us of the scriptural application of this truth.


5.  You brought another level of purpose and solidarity to our family, your family.

6.  You fit right in from the beginning.  We would have been grateful to work through any of the hard, but you made this process a sheer joy.  In this too, we take constant praise to the throne.  Another way your life has already directed glory to the Lord.


7.  Your cry is distinctly different than any other.  You trill your tongue when you mad cry.  This reminds me how different you are.  Unique in your ways, you (just as intended) stand out.  It gives me hope that you will not conform rather transform.


8.  Your laugh is contagious.  Though a man of few sounds, when you do laugh the world catches on and can't resist joining in.

9.  Your plump lips are kissable, and you LOVE to kiss.  From the moment you came home, you would grab our faces, pull us to you, try to consume our entire face as you rubbed your lips all over our faces.  I love your reckless abandon in loving us.


10.  You are mine.  Ours.  You are here.  Finally.  An answer to prayer after years of wait. Thank you, Jesus.

Happy ten month birthday, Mezekir!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

You've Been Asking


At the store today, another woman asked where Mezekir was from.  She asked why we felt the need to go so far away to grow our family when there are so many children in need of families here in the States.  Fair question.  Just remembering a few of the reasons Ethiopia was the route we chose to grow our family:  


Comparative Human Development Statistics* (where information for the United States is provided in parenthesis):
78% = Population not using an improved water source
16% = Under age 5 mortality rate
45% = Population < 15 years old (21%)
64.1% = Adult illiteracy rate (0%)
77.8% = Population living at less than $2/day
38% = Children under weight (2%)
$21 = per capita health expenditure ($6,096)
6% = births attended by skilled health personnel (99%)
3 = physicians per 100,000 (256)
2 = internet users/1,000 people (630)
$1,055 = GDP/capita using PPP ($41,890)
*Source: UN Human Development Report 2007/08 

So if you were wondering, this should clarify just a FEW of the reasons Ethiopia was the right match for us.  


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Together for Adoption Conference...Don't Miss It!!!!

Conference 2010


Together for Adoption Conference 2010 will be October 1-2, 2010, in Austin, Texas, hosted by The Austin Stone Community Church and Hill Country Bible Church (the conference venue), and in partnership with Hope for Orphans. Our conference theme is “The Gospel, the Church, and the Global Orphan Crisis.” Lord willing, the 2010 conference will be the largest and most helpful conference yet, with gospel-saturated general sessions, longer breakout sessions, and more time to network with other churches, organizations, and adoptive families. They've intentionally structuring the conference around the gospel and community (see conference schedule).

Check out the fantastic lineup of keynote speakers for the conference.



Dan Cruver – Topic: “A Lifelong Love: Keeping the Gospel at the Center of Orphan Ministry.”

Before co-founding and directing Together for Adoption, Dan was a college professor of Bible and Theology. He has also served as a pastor of family ministries. As one who has been adopted by God and has adopted two children, Dan founded Together for Adoption to equip churches and educate Christians theologically about orphan care and horizontal adoption. Dan regularly writes and speaks about the Gospel and its implications for earthly adoption and the care of orphans. He wrote the foreword to Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption by Dr. Joel Beeke and is a regular contributor to The Gospel Coalition Blog. Dan has been married to Melissa for 18 years, and together they have four children.



Bryan Loritts – Topic: “The Church as the Theater of Transracial Adoption.”

Bryan is the Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis- a multicultural church ministering to the evolving community of urban Memphis. Bryan has also served as an adjunct professor at Crichton College, and is on the board of trustees for Presbyterian Day School, and Memphis Leadership Foundation. In addition to serving the community of Memphis, Bryan’s ministry takes him across the country as he speaks to thousands annually at churches, conferences and retreats. He is also the author of the book God on Paper; as well as a contributing author for the book entitled Great Preaching. Bryan is a graduate of Philadelphia Biblical University, Talbot School of Theology and is currently working on his Doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford Graduate School. Bryan and his wife Korie have their three sons Quentin, Myles and Jaden. For more on Bryan and Fellowship Memphis, visit fellowshipmemphis.org.



Aaron Ivey – Worship Leader.

Aaron Ivey, a husband and adoptive father, believes that all worship is a response to a creative and compelling God. Serving as one of the worship pastors at The Austin Stone, Aaron now views touring ministry as an extension of what goes on within a vibrant, healthy local church. With a passion for living out God’s word, compassion for God’s children, and a deep, abiding love of God, Aaron and his bandmates are challenging a generation of believers to take their experiences in corporate worship out into the world, to marry song with service.



Darrin Patrick – Topic: “The Trinity as Model and Motive for Church-based Orphan Care.” Darrin’s talk will be via a brief video. We’re currently in the process of adding another keynote speaker.

Darrin serves as lead pastor of The Journey in Saint Louis, MO, which he founded in 2002. Darrin also serves as Vice President of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and is a regular contributor at The Resurgence. His passion is to help the church understand and live the gospel in the world. Today, The Journey runs eight services across four campuses and continues to aggressively plant new campuses and churches in the Saint Louis region and beyond. He recently finished two books: Church Planter: the man, the message and the mission and A Church for the City with Matt Carter. Darrin is married to his high school sweetheart, Amie, and they have four beautiful children: Glory, Grace, Drew, and Delaney. Darrin enjoys vacations with his family, basketball, good food, good books, good movies, and weightlifting.



Carlos Whittaker – Host.

Carlos Whittaker is an artist, pastor, thinker, experience architect, and Web 2.0 junkie. Carlos was at Sandals Church in Riverside California where he served for 10 years as the Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts. Sandals Church is an authentic community of believers whose goal is to be real with themselves, others, and God. His passion for leading the church into a relational worship experience each and every Sunday was his hearts goal.

In August of 2007 Carlos and his family made the move from Southern California to Atlanta, GA. Carlos became the Director of Service Programming at Buckhead Church which is one of the three North Point Community Church campuses. He oversaw all the Sunday adult experience and design. He directly oversaw all areas Hosting, Production, Creative, Video, Music, and Programming at Buckhead Church. He also sat on the creative sermon planning team for Andy Stanley. Recently Carlos signed with Integrity Music to pursue a recording career and to continue to disturb and disrupt the church as a whole. Carlos and Heather Whittaker have 3 children. In November 2006, Carlos and his wife Heather adopted their son Losiah from Seoul Korea.



Matt Carter – Topic: “The Church as the Champion of Social Justice.”

Matt serves as lead pastor at The Austin Stone, which he planted in 2002. The first meeting of 30 people now encompasses 5000 worshippers on Sundays, making The Austin Stone one of the 100 fastest growing churches in America. Matt’s vision is to foster the churches passion for Christ, love for each other, and outreach to their communities – ultimately planting churches throughout America and the nations, supporting missionaries who are loving the peoples of the world and bringing them the hope of the gospel. In addition to pastoring at The Austin Stone, Matt is a cancer survivor, author and speaker for camps and conferences nationwide. Matt holds an MDiv from Southwestern Seminary and lives in Austin with his wife Jennifer and their children: John Daniel, Annie, and Samuel.



Dr. Karyn Purvis – Topic: “Counting the Cost: Preparing Churches for the Adoption Journey.”

Dr. Karyn Purvis is the Director of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas. During the past decade, she and her colleagues at the Institute have invested their efforts towards developing biblical and researched-based interventions for at-risk children. Throughout her life, Karyn’s personal and professional calling has been to create a welcoming, loving environment for children who come from “hard places”. Karyn’s Empowered to Connect website contains much of her material.



Dave Gibbons -Topic: “The Church as the Answer to the Foster Care Challenge.”

Dave is the founding pastor of Newsong, a multi-site international third-culture church. He is an in-demand speaker, innovative strategist, and cultural specialist with global experience in the arts, business, church and community development. Dave is on the board of World Vision US. He’s also founder and chief visionary officer of Xealot, a strategic innovations groups, creatively connecting resources to leaders around the world. Dave is also Creative Catalyst and Founding Partner of The Awaken Group, a global leadership development consulting firm. Dave is the author of a new book called The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for Third Culture Leaders. He’s also contributed to such books as Unchristian.

Go to the following link and register today.  I'll see you there!

http://www.togetherforadoption.org

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dinner and Wine

We visited with some friends recently, who had been asking for some time to hear about our experiences in Ethiopia and tell how and where we saw God at work.  They didn't have to twist our arms too hard to get us to concede.  After all a great dinner and a vintage bottle of wine seem to be the best place to unwrap the complexity of poverty and its effects on all who encounter it, dirty water, starvation, the presence of the Muslim faith and its impact, the western church's lack of visibility in the 3rd world, the American dream, orphans, invalids in Ethiopia, the beauty which co-exists in the midst of the above, and the giftedness of the locals.  I was caught off guard by the pain I experienced reliving the assessment of the surplus and luxuries of my life in comparison to the lives of those languishing.  And then those dreaded words that always get me in trouble:  "I am crushed by the weight of knowing my living at 8515 Carli Cr., surrounded by the wanton pleasures of life, continuing to consume comes at a price to so many.  My lifestyle, our lifestyles, mean many more starve, die of thirst and preventable diseases, millions of children go to sleep without knowing the love of a parent."  Our host was gracious.  She tried to console me.  With a genuinely grieved heart over my pain, our host reminded us we couldn't live with joy (happiness) if our hearts were taken with guilt and constant thought of what we might sacrifice next and God just couldn't want this...   Really? I think it's just where He wants me.  Hurting.  Grieving.  Praying.  Submitting.  Broken but rejoicing all the same, begging Him to keep me devastated for those He loves who are wasting away, living a life that more closely matches His gospel.  The conversation died off.  I wasn't surprised.  It was uncomfortable, not wasted.

Alas, our friend has a child who suffers from a terminal disease.  When we were in the car riding home, the thought struck me how hard it would be for her to see people surrounding her who hold the key to healing her son, to remedying his disease; but as she encountered these people each one assessed the sacrifice involved in giving over the entity of healing.  They look at what it would mean to choose to offer life to this child or continue on in the same place and choose death for her son.  They look.  They appraise.  Ultimately they refuse.  They "pocket" the remedy and carry on.  After all, this belongs to them.  They are not to feel guilty for enjoying what was theirs to begin with, right?  They continue on with out thought.  They world turns while he dies.  But this IS what poverty looks like.  I am not implying it can be remedied easily if at all...but that is no excuse not to intercede for many.  How desperate I am to live what He desires. It's hard to live not belonging, not fitting, not relating. Ahhh, but I wouldn't trade it to return to the comfort of convenience and contentment in conformity.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We have a Surprise...

Turn off the flashplayer at the bottom and enjoy the surprise!
video

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Radical

A few months ago, I read the book Radical by David Platt.  God gave him a great view of the true gospel.  Pick it up and read it.  Allow God to use.  Partner it with the Word.  It may radically change your view of gospel style living.   For those of you non-readers, I'm linking you to his podcast series.  Take my radical dare to read or listen and remain the same:


If you're looking for a way to radically impact the world, consider partnering with great organizations like Hopechest.  Check them out!  Consider a way to radically live out the real gospel of Christ.


Do Something Now from Children's HopeChest on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

TB doesn't stand for Too Boring (but with this post it should)

Before we left Ethiopia, Belay asked us to remind our pediatrician that Mezekir received a BCG vaccine for TB.  The significance of this vaccine is that a child will usually show a false positive on the TB skin test.  Mez did have his skin test administered, and the results read at 12+.  Because this was above the "norm" and indicates the presence of the TB virus, exposure to TB at some point, or was indicative of the BCG, the office suggested a T-Spot.T test to be preformed and a chest Xray.  We are appreciative they advocate this as opposed to an immediate dosing of INH.  Too many clinics suggest a child do a 6 month to 9 month regimen of meds to combat the "TB" that may or may not exist.  Mez's chest Xray did not show any signs of active TB (we were not surprised).  The T-spot test results will be out for 5-7 days.  This process was not so dramatic until you factor in the 7 (yes 7) viles of blood to administer all of the other tests which our ped requested.  This allows titering for immunizations (because this momma refuses to re-immunize if not necessary; yes, our ped called me Jenny McCarthy...please), STD panels (which I was assured were routine when living in an orphanage in a foreign country), and the TB test due to our BCG vaccine.  Poor fella screamed like never before.  Since we had already attempted a blood draw last Wednesday, I brought along Daddy for backup.  I am glad!  The nurses were, too.  All that to say, today was not Mezekir's favorite day.  We will be glad when this is over.  After 93 days of working to attach and bond, we hope Mez is quick to forget today and remember the 92 prior.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Debunking Myths #2

I find it interesting how many people ask about our story now that our son is in our arms.  I usually accept this as an opportunity to share how the Lord worked mightily in our lives to bring us to where we are.  Most often, this means I confuse the question as authentic interest as opposed to what it is:  the ever pressing question, "How do you have a black son?  Did you adopt?  Where is he from?".  And for the record, I don't mind those questions being simply stated.  I would be curious, too.  But what I find, when I answer the question they actually asked (what is your story), is a person who feels the need to defend why they have not adopted.  It never fails to follow, "It's good God called you to that.  We are called to care for the orphans and widows in a different way."  I agree. 

When I look at the Old Testament, I see a few directives surrounding orphans, widows, foreigners...who we refer to as "the least of these".  Exodus 22:21-24 Tells us not to exploit or oppress the least of these.  Deuteronomy gives much directive as to the care of the least of these.  Interestingly enough, Deuteronomy 27:19 states, "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless, or the widow."  This leads me back to the above conversations. 

What are you doing to care for the least of these.  I will speak directly for myself prior to our pursuit of adoption:  We sponsored a few orphans.  We gave to CASA.  We helped with ministries that host foreign students.  Hey, don't forget IJM and the periodic, small donation to people traveling on mission trips to care for the least of these. But we did withhold justice.  Justice is the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics.  There is nothing "just" about the token, compulsory, unsacrificial contributions made by most Americans.  When faced with this comment, I struggle not to question how exactly God has them caring for the least of these.  I long to point out how many of us continue to drive around in our luxury SUVs, drink $3 lattes, go for ice cream at the local shoppe that costs more than a month of food in a languishing country, carry swimming, golfing, and tennis memberships, have boats or other recreational vehicles and closets full of shoes and clothing, attend private schools and yet refuse to live a life of sacrifice for the least of these.  It seems to me, whether we are or are not called to adopt, we are all called to live in a "just" way that communicates the heart of the gospel...sacrifice.

Money is not the only justice we can offer.  I have a friend, who cares for the least of these in a very unglorified and unnoticed manner.  She doesn't have a cute baby on her hip.  She didn't travel to a foreign land. Without proclamation, she gives up days of her week to go to the lonely, the abandoned, and the discarded.  When praying how the Lord would use her, she was compelled to go to the nursing homes and love those who our society has forsaken.  Nothing fancy...but sacrifice.

My heart desires to be bold when next faced with this statement (or tempted to make it) and  lovingly ask, "Tell me your story.  I want to know how God is using you to provide justice to the least of these?"  After all, for the darling set of brown eyes below, there are 147 million others begging to feel the justice of the gospel walked out.