Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fear, Our Unwelcome Co-Pilot

At times, for survival’s sake I have to close my eyes and create a distance to buffer reality just enough to pretend like nothing is wrong.   Blogging seems to open my eyes, engage my emotions, splay my heart wide-open, and demand reality.  It forces me to acknowledge that things here, on this side of eternity, aren’t right.  I remember that the world is broken.  Children hurt and ache for love.  People cry out for help, and they need God. 

Last week, I realized that I’d boxed the entirety of my feelings and shelved them for the duration of about 4 months.  This small fact broke through when a year and ½ old email with the faces of three small children resurfaced in my inbox.  Each of the children in the photos pleaded for something.  The oldest boy (aka defender) entreated us for a safe place and people he could trust.  The girl (aka little mum) begged to know the simple joys of being a child.  The youngest boy (aka wanderer) only desired to belong.  I had put those compelling pictures to the side to hedge the reality of their needs, which are the needs of so many others.  But no more. 

We’ve said all along that we would go where God leads, but we had no idea fear would be our co-pilot.  We fear what is to come.  We fear what will be lost.  We fear not being enough to these three new children God’s called us to love.  So we’ve prayed, and prayed…and we’ve found it’s easier to stand and pray and watch with a great distance separating us from the hurt that exists than it is to fully engage.  I fear feeling their suffering, but God’s called me to that, too.  How can a mother and a father, a sister or a brother, love completely without sharing in common agony?  SO we choose, today and tomorrow and from here forward, to acknowledge and remember Defender’s, Little Mum’s, and Wanderer’s reality.  As we wait for the day they become ours, we will love them by holding them, their stories, and their hopes for a future close to our hearts.

For those who wonder, continue to ask, and pray diligently:  no official referral, which means no court date, and no news of the terrific trio coming home anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

White Mom, Brown Baby

As a white mom with a brown son, I’m consistently on the hunt for equipping articles and studies that would better prepare me to parent a transracial family.  At the beginning of our adoption process I struggled to see racial identity as a principal matter.  In my heart, I wanted race to be a benign topic.  I wanted the world to wear colorless goggles.  Then, something clicked, and I realized seeing my son as colorless would in fact remove part of him.  There is a pride that comes with his handsome latte colored skin, and I want him to find that pride.  I went into this adoption hoping love would be enough to conquer our differences and instill self-regard.  I really thought it might be; but with each passing day, I am far fearful it won’t be enough for the long haul.   I am inclined, just maybe not fully qualified.  So I read.  And read.  And read on and on.  I ran across this article this past week on transracial families.  It validated my concerns.

The Importance of Racial Socialization on Transracial Adoptees

The Evan B. Donaldson Institute just reported on a research study that found: racial socialization and NOT focus on culture or ethnic socialization decreased adoptees’ sense of marginalization (and by extension—low sense of self worth), and resulted in greater self esteem.  The study sample included 100 adult and adolescent transracial adoptees.  Further details of the abstract can be found on the Evan B. Donaldson Institute website. 
    I wanted to post information about this research finding because, as an adoption professional and veteran adoptive parent, I believe that this is ESSENTIAL information for adoptive parents to get and use in raising their children. 
  Racial identity is THE salient issue for our children and families. Facing up to what we need to do in order to nurture healthy racial identity in them is a major responsibility. We cannot excuse ourselves from fulfilling that responsibility simply because we adopted through agencies/social workers who had no idea how important racial immersion experiences are in the formation of racial identity and allowed us to adopt, despite lack of diversity resources in the communities in which we live. (when that is the case)
We also have to face up to the fact that merely living in a racially diverse community is not enough.  We must help our children connect with adults of color, and we must recognize that our children need to see us doing the same. 
    Over the last couple of decades, I have observed how adoptive parents—especially those who have adopted internationally—focus on engaging in cultural events and activities, instead of dealing with race-related issues.  When they are confronted by adoptees and/or experts (social scientists, diversity educators, etc…) they make excuses for raising their kids in nearly-all-white environments and engaging in white social circles themselves on the basis of all they claim that they do to teach their child about his or her culture-of-origin.  That is and has been very disturbing.
    That is why this type of research is so very important to us, as members of the greater- transracial-adoptive family network, regardless of whether our children were adopted via domestic or international adoption, and which country they were born in/adopted from.  It is up to us to broadcast this information—research findings like this—throughout our adoption communities.  It is also important that we urge adoption agencies to educate themselves about HOW to assess prospective parents for transracial adoption and approve them only if and when they are able to provide the racial socialization that will be necessary for any child they adopt to grow up with healthy racial-ethnic identity.  With more people than ever wanting to adopt, and fewer identified children (internationally, at least) waiting for adoptive placement, there is no reason for agencies to place children in communities where they cannot have regular, ongoing immersion, their parents cannot make and keep friends of color, and there are no adult role models of color to be found. 
    As adoptive parents, we have to make this a priority and stop fooling ourselves that as long as we try to expose our children to birth culture, that is “enough" and they will be “fine.”  Evidence is now accumulating that demonstrates otherwise.  Our conversations now need to be about HOW we find and incorporate those essential people and experiences into the lives of our children and families that will truly help them develop healthy racial identity. 
Jane A. Brown, MSW

I get the article.  It brought to light areas I’m failing as a white mamma of a brown boy…I harp on teaching Mez and our family about Ethiopian culture without focusing on race issues.  I believe the points made are valid; but in a primarily white community (can I say pretty segregated community), it’s difficult to find opportunity to build these valuable relationships.  What’s a girl to do?  It seems rather pious to shop for friends “of color” simply to fill a need for my son.  So, I’m asking what is the way we work to integrate our community and move into a blended community that offers cross-cultural interaction and positive peer relationships?  I’m taking suggestions.  Help.

Meze and Mama

*to view article in original publication click HERE

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Birth-day Letter to Birth Mom

Dear Awtash,

Tonight is the eve of our son’s birth.  Although we are worlds apart, I am sure similar thoughts consume our minds tonight.  I’m taken with notions of you and a small baby entering an unjust world not so long ago.  Can you remember this night two years ago?  I wish I did.  I wish I could pinpoint in my memory the weather, the sounds, and my feelings.  I wish it were imprinted in my heart the way it’s forever imprinted on yours.  It seems fair that you alone should hold this memory; after all, you carried Mez in your womb.  But I’m jealous.  I’m grieving.  I hurt over each moment I missed with him.  Tonight, when I tucked our son into bed, I whispered to him every detail you apportioned to me about his birth, but it was vague and seemed too brief.  Tonight, I wish not only to regain the moments of Mezekir’s birth; I also wish for more time with you.  I need to remember your hands and your eyes and the sound of your gentle voice.  How will I tell him about you when the details of you seep from my memory?

Tonight, I watched Mez carefully construct a tower of Legos.  His pudgy hands, oversized for an almost two year old, seem so strong and sure.  As he played, I pictured him magically transported to northern Ethiopia, only a tuft of hair covering his fontanel (in true Tigray style), sitting in a meager home, half of his “westernized” size, falling asleep on the hard floor.   Strangely, I wasn’t comforted knowing the difference in that apparition and reality.  Instead, my heart aches for the loss of an intact culture and being loved and held by the woman who brought him life.  Sovereignty.  I’m hanging on to that.  It’s what there is.

Mez lied down in his crib tonight as a baby.  Tomorrow, he’s a toddler.  It is not cliché.  Time is going too quickly.  Do you relate?  Or does each day without out your son drag on endlessly?  You would be so proud of Mez.  He’s has such tenacity for life.  I suppose he learned that from you, to fight, to press on, to persist.  He’s no quitter.  In fact, even with three older siblings, he rules this roost.  You would relish watching Josh and Mez together.  Never have there been any more kindred spirits.  They mirror one another as though he carried each one of Josh’s DNA.  Jocular.  Ardent.  Ballsy.  He’s our joy.   My grandmother put it like this, “The first child is for the mamma.  The second for the dad.  The third is to perfect parenting.  The fourth child is for the pleasure of the entire family.”  She pegged it.  Mez is the joy of our entire family. 

Tomorrow, we celebrate Mezekir’s birth.  We will celebrate all that his life has given us.  I hope one day you will know that Mez (and you as his first mother) brought new life to our family.  He shifted our vision.  He expanded our horizons.  God used him to broaden our ministry, our hearts, and give us a tangible understanding of the gospel.  I will celebrate, but part of me will grieve.  My joy is your loss.  Thank you for loving our son enough to give him life.  We will celebrate the part of your life you gave when you gave him to us.  Thank you, Awtash.  We love you. 


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sisay, Yemamu, and Goliath

Meet my friends, Sisay and Yemamu, whose spirits drew me in and whose hearts captured my heart from the moment we met. 

Sisay far left.  Yemamu far right.
 Sisay and Yemamu were born into the community of Korah.  Yemam and Sisay may not be “brothers” by formal definition, but their bond goes much deeper than genetic connection.  With parents infected by leprosy and snared by poverty, there was little hope these boys would escape the stigma associated with the station of their families.  Imagine a community, not one common to you and me.  Instead, imagine this.


Kitchen in Korah

Gathering Food at Korah.
Imagine the smells, the sounds, the necessity associated with just existing.  Imagine living unnoticed, unwanted, and with no value, and you’ve just merely peeked behind the curtains of Korah.  As so many, Yemam and Sisay began laboring day in and day out as shoe shiners at a ripe, young school age.  Schooling was an illusive dream desired but not attainable.  School would mean hope and change and possibility.  It would also mean one less meager income, one less contributor, one less person scavenging for food left in the garbage.   One day while the boys shined shoes on the roadside, a Young Life leader sauntered into their lives.  Through friendship evangelism, Sisay and Yemamu chose to leave the grasps of Islam and hunker into the arms of a Loving Savior King.  As young believer, they continued to see the goodness of God’s provisions as Young Lifers sponsored them through primary and secondary schools and college.  Psalms 40:1-3 virtually took life for Sisay and Yemam as they read, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth…” Sisay and Yemam’s lives sing of God’s glorious love.  They have returned to Korah, to their humble and painful beginnings, to those they love in order to share an eternal hope.  By feeding, educating, business building, and respectful employment through an NGO these young run, they continue the cycle of friendship evangelism to a place full of hurt and pain.   

Yesterday at school, my son retold the story of Yemamu and Goliath.  I mean Sisay and Goliath.  SO SORRY, David and Goliath.  God took the most unlikely and used him to conquer the unconquerable.   Today, I see the modern day Davids facing off with the contemporary Goliath armed with the ever-present, never-changing power of God.  I imagine Yemam and Sisay armed with a their metaphorical sling and stone constructed of the hope of Jesus delivered with the FULL gospel by the least likely of candidates, who were disregarded by the world, firing against the giant of despair.  Encouraged by their tenacity and humbled by God’s faithfulness, I rejoice to be a part of Hands for the Needy Ethiopia at Korah and cannot wait to be reunited.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Redefining Weird

Rule 1 in blogging:  Don’t blog about blogging or write like you have an audience.  Well, I’m breaking the rules as usual mostly because I’ve gone MIA in blog world for more than just the normal sabbatical.  Excuses are endless, and the truth be told, I have A LOT of them for not blogging.  I didn’t blog during our last tip to Ethiopia because the Internet was down at the guesthouse most of the time.  I didn’t blog when we returned because I was on re-entry overload.  After re-acclimating, I didn’t blog because I was processing emotions and information.  Processing complete, I found myself n the midst of a new and unintended path.  I didn’t post about this new path because, frankly, I just didn’t know how to discuss where HE was leading this family.

Months ago, we announced we rejoined the ranks of families adopting from Ethiopia.  We officially sent over our dossier and completed EVERY piece of paperwork that our agency needs.  Yes, the program has changed.  Yes, there seem to be more hurdles to clear this round, but we are in! 

Until our last trip to Ethiopia, we didn’t realize the direction our next adoption would take.  On paper, we’d prepared ourselves for a child with special needs like HIV, Hepatitis, and clubfoot or cleft lip.  We’d committed to a child between the ages of 2 and 8 years old.  Surely, God would fit that child into our home.  Truth is, we are compelled to loving the least of these in the world’s eyes.  Being committed to this seemed to blind us from where He wanted to take us.

God changed the path the last Saturday we spent in Ethiopia.  (This tends to be His way in our lives.)  I’m not sure why I continue to be amazed by this; but I am.  In a miraculous, God-scripted-manner, God set our path toward the adoption of 3 (yes I said 3) siblings.  (Pause.  Breathe in.  Exhale.  Repeat.)  Putting this in print terrifies me to the core.  No HIV.  No Hep.  No medical needs…just lots of children.  For those of you mathematicians, yes, that does make the kid count in our home at an all time high of 7.  Whew…said it.  Way in if you’d like; but be gentle, please.

Our family prays ceaselessly for God to script this road for His glory alone.  Each of us is scared yet sure. The moment the Spirit makes a depository of peace into our hearts, the words “college funds”, “weird”, “mega family”, and “passenger van” pop up and slay the faith we have in his plan.  I feel like I teeter-totter back and forth from faith to fear and back again.  I can only see God responding to me as I do with my sweet daughter when she grieves the “weird” of our lives.  “Weird” by the world’s standard, is what I am called to.  Not conformity.  Not ease.  Nor normalcy.  I remind her Jesus was in every way “weird”.  Paul- weird.  Noah- weird.  Abraham- weird.  Purity, eternal mindset, righteousness with out judgment, and sacrifice are peculiar by the world’s definition.  It’s just making peace with the fear of judgment by the world and accepting the isolation that comes from our differences.  If I can tell her, why can’t I take it in?  In the end, I resolve.  I am far more fearful of disobedience than “weird”. 

When we adopted Mez, we found ourselves catching our breath at each turn if anxiety, in desperation, fully consumed.  This time around, we can best describe the journey like the lazy river… We have settled in and feel like God is moving us around each bend.  At certain bends the aversion to the road less taken forebodes; but it’s different.  We don’t have a lot of control, but it feels good. 

Join us in praying for God’s will for our family and for the terrific trio that is still in Ethiopia.  Pray that he will open and close the appropriate doors.  Pray for us to abide in whatever “Weird” He calls us to live.  We are praying for your weird and willingness to walk there, too. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

WWF and Swan Lake

This past week, Josh and I spent almost 20 hours in training for older child/children adoptions.  The aim of this training is to better ready parents, who plan to adopt older children, of the difficulties and hope that surrounds their adoptions.  The facilitators do their best to deflate the fairytale that all parents-to-be builds. It's not to discourage older child adoptions.  It's not to direct them to small babies.  It's to prepare us for the struggles that are sure to come.

The time was fruitful.  We left with tons of ideas and a plan in place.  On our midnight ride home, we readied ourselves to re-set the system at home immediately in order to prepare for our newest addition(s).  As seasoned parents, we determined execution wouldn't be too daunting.  Ha!  We roughly underestimated the task at hand.  

Tired from the long week and late night, I met my first opportunity early this morning.  Rough housing as usual, my boys got carried away.  Enter five year old body slamming against older brother, who quite enjoys using his weight to propel brother back four feet, while the two year old beats them both with drum sticks.  I gently approached them according to protocol.  Eye-to-eye, soft and safe touch, playful voice intact, I didn't expect it to work just like the role playing in training, but I did expect something.  There was no notice from the terrific trio.  They continued WWF Wrestling.

The boys' row couldn't be quieted by that timid an approach, so I redirected to level-two as per the plan.  Gentle voice, two choices, and eye contact with a bit firmer touch.  Ummm, hello.  Excuse me.  I'm trying to be the right kind of parent here.  My flitting wasn't working.  I guess the boys didn't take the class.  Ugh.  Plan failing quickly.  I try once more.  "Boys," I gently prod, "Boys, you know this isn't the place for rough housing.  Stop.  You can 1)  Take the rough play to a safe area.  2) Let me escort you to a better place to play.  These are your choices.  What do you choose?"  Really? Good enough plan, but I can't say it was exactly working.  Every ounce of normalcy was heckling me, "Just goose them or talk like a normal parent of four kids, loud and firmly."  Instead, I stuck to the plan.  

Level three.  Firm but kind voice, eye contact (how the heck do I do this without physically accosting the boys, which is not part of the training), directly state they can think about this scenario until they are ready to comply (Must.  Hear.  Voice.  To.  Register.  Directions.  Darn this is hard.), then de-escalate to level 2 and on to 1 as quickly as possible.  Clear throat.  Flit.  Hop.  Skip.  Jump.  Tap tap.  If anyone were watching they would assume I was botching a piece to Swan Lake, not parenting the three boys in front of me.

Then, there was that moment.  The moment I saw the click in our 13 yr old's eyes.  He realized something had been happening.  He realized I had been talking, bouncing, working so hard to get them to obey.  It was almost as if I could see his brain working out the last 10 minutes of the exchange he was only semi-present to experience.  And with all his fervor he looks up, calming the 5 yr old and 2 yr old with a faint "shhh, shhh, shhh" and the waving arm motion.  And he asks with full sincerity, "What is wrong with you?  Why are you talking like that.  That's so...awkward."  

They stopped rough housing, not because my newly learned parenting worked; I think they stopped because they were confused and bothered by the exchange.  I was, too.  It felt very out of body.  I couldn't help but laugh.  I guess we need more training.  Next time, I'm sending the kids.

Mucha Lucha Mez, Mucha Lucha Tiger, and Mucha Lucha Hunter.  Terrific Trio.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Discord in Perfection

I love family.  The last two days, have been a bit of rapture from our normal chaos.  My older sister and her four children are sharing their last few days as Texans with us before they move off to New York.  I suppose some might think a crew of eight children overwhelming.  They’re right.  But for me it is a boon to my soul. 

There was a point tonight while we were on the lake, and the Sun was setting, and the kids screamed in delight as Josh dragged them behind the ski boat, as Mez perched on the bow of the boat, and as we rocked to Gun’s and Roses… there was that moment when that I really said, “THIS is the perfect moment!”  I want to stay right here.
Cousins tubing.

Sun setting on Lake Palestine while we skied. 

The thought only lasted an instant.   As quickly as it emerged, it burst into a million pieces.  Hiyellum’s face (the boy I met in Korah) interrupted my musing.  The glass house constructed of the American dreams I’ve been sold along the way shattered…yet again.  These are the moments that keep my heart grounded in being more than just a Christian consumer.  It is the disparity in the world of the over priced ski boat on the lake and of the boy living under a tarp next to a hovel and begging only for a home and love that cause a collision of discordance.  

I can’t help but see this sweet face each night and wonder what God has in store for him.  I dare not ask God to relieve me from the weight of this millstone.   It is this burden that reminds me to pray for Hiyellum daily.  The social worker has not been able to locate Hiyellum to discuss and file the necessary paperwork for him to leave Korah and have a foster family.  To the best of my knowledge, he is still living there alone.   

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's the Simple Things

Tonight, I quietly tiptoed through my room heading to gather laundry because Mez was already tucked in to his crib for the night.  I paused.  Seeing him there, asleep, in our home, his home, still takes my breath.  With so many families in the Ethiopia program living in the court-MOWYC@-embassy-limbo land, I can't help but to feel all the more blessed.  It seems like so much time has passed since we brought Mez home.  I think time lessens the tumult of the journey.  But the tumult makes me savor the simple things:  Mez's unkempt morning hair and disposition, his crying to be held, his crying to get down, the way he coos when he's sleepy, his love of food, his deep brown eyes, the unsolicited and unpredictable hugs and kisses, his splashing that floods the bathroom floor at bath time, how enamored he is with his pacifiers, and how he begs for bed when he's sleepy.  I couldn't just walk through my room tonight.  Gratitude compelled me to stop and take a longer peek at Mez snuggled safely in his bed.  Seeing him there reminded me to pray diligently for those still waiting.  I hope I never lose sight of the simple things.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Telling it like it is...Lori and LoPa

For those of you who might be wondering how it all began, here's a snip it (or at least what she says). 

Josh and I started our family very early.  At 19 and 21, an unplanned pregnancy led us to consider all options that might be best for our son, whom we carried.  We read statistics.  We explored placement.  We researched parenting.  Ultimately, God’s plan for us was to raise our precious son; but this rough beginning served as an introduction to the beauty and sacrifice of placing a child for adoption and founded in us a love for birth parents, whose best option is to place their children. 

Three and a half years later, God readied us for our next child, our daughter.  Our second pregnancy remained problematic from beginning to finish; yet in the end, she arrived right on cue.  Little did we know this would be the end of the “easy road” to family growth. 

Over the next four years, Josh and I lost four pregnancies.   Rather, four babies.  Ranging from six weeks to twenty plus weeks, each loss stole our breath.  By the third loss, our doctors scrambled to diagnose the cause.  We followed all the rules.  Our friends and families prayed.  Ironically, days after our fourth loss (yes after), our doctors called with a diagnosis of a genetic clotting disorder and a possible treatment.  It was too late.  We grieved and questioned.  We closed the door to carrying another child in our womb.  Adoption seemed reasonable. 

The research began.  Only months into preparing adoption papers, Josh realized my significant pain, the damage, and the gaping hollow that co-existed with the loss of our pregnancies.  He understood that adopting would be a way for me to fill this hole.  He knew God needed to heal the hurts in my heart before we were truly prepared to adopt.   Josh stymied our adoption.   The pain of my losses festered and took root into an insatiable desire to mother and took me to a place of complete brokenness.  A day arrived when I was finally inclined to relinquish it at the foot of the cross.  I yielded my hopes for more children through adoption.  I surrendered my agony. God began the work of restoration. 

Time passed and on a routine visit, my doctor and I were both stunned to discover I was pregnant.  We followed protocol for experimental treatments to sustain our pregnancy.  We knew the risks.  We anticipated the difficulty ahead.  All of us expected another loss.   At each turn we were cautioned against being too hopeful.  As tumultuous as this pregnancy was, God sustained the life of our child.  He was born.  God granted us more than we could have imagined possible, yet He wasn’t done. 

A year and a half later, Josh arrived home from work with an announcement.   After years of dormancy, God awakened in him the passion to adopt.  Josh caught me off guard.  God caught me off guard.  I had not considered adoption since the day I released my dreams.  Josh had not mentioned adoption for years.  Yet here we stood.  God took our years of waste, our losses, and our pains and cultivated them into a passion that would transform our family.  God directed our hearts to Ethiopia where our fourth son first lived. 

On our placement trip to Addis, we fell desperately in love with Ethiopia…the culture, the people, their giftedness, their kindness, the simplicity, and beauty in the midst of penury.  We realized that this would not be a place we left easily or permanently.  Ethiopia imprinted herself on our hearts.  Looking into the eyes of each orphan, each child on the street, each poverty-stricken woman and man, we glimpsed our son and the life he could have lived.  We were compelled to touch those, who were left behind. 

LoPa Art was born from our hearts' desires to touch those left behind- to feed, to educate, to trade train, to employee, and provide medical care and employment through profits produced by micro-enterprise.  The giftedness of Ethiopian artisans makes easy this task.  Following God’s plan makes each step a treasure. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Poverty Becomes Personal

What a great but trying day!  We trekked back to Korah.  It's always been hard, but for me, today was exceptionally hard.  Yesterday, a small boy sat right by my side during the inauguration and feeding.  He refuses to leave.  Today at Korah, he saw me from the distance and rant to me.  He held my leg and my arm and my hand.  After a while, I asked him where he lived.  He pointed to the other side of the dump, then to where we were, and then beyond us.  Confused, I asked our guide where his family lived.  When the guide asked the child he began to whimper.  He said his parents were dead.  He was from The North (same village as Mez) and when his parents died, his brother told him about Korah, a place they could live and find food.  Together, they traveled over 500KM.  Once at Korah, his brother disappeared.  At 10 years old this child was scared and broken.  I picked him up and he melted into me.  He held me as tightly as possible.  When I hugged him, he smothered me with kisses and hugged tighter and tighter.  He asked the guide if I could be his mamma.  He told our guide that I loved him (because I was holding and kissing and hugging him like his 1st mamma).  This boy, 8-10 years of age, has NO home.  He is living with another boy under a piece of plastic.  He really does eat from the dump.  He doesn't have money for school.  BUT the good news, he meets the criteria for our feeding and education programs.

We spent ALL of our time together.  At the end, when it was time to leave my little guy held on for dear life.  His heart was breaking.  That was one of those moments that poverty becomes personal... Pray for my friend Hiyellum

July 4th

Amazing day!  We are celebrating freedom in a different way, inaugurating the feeding program today.  We were privileged to see hope in the young and old of Korah.  An elderly man rejoiced, "Before we knew the hope of spiritual rebirth.  Today, we feel physically reborn.  We have been forgotten.  Today, God remembered us.  He sent you to remember us."  The only appropriate response was to testify that all good things come from the One True God.

Seeing the newly built showers and toilets brought tears.  Now, those ridiculed and kicked out of schools (even once sholar-shipped in) due to their stench, can freely attend school.  They rejoiced for a clean plate of food, not scavenged from the dump.  The elderly felt freedom from a lifetime of shame.  Finally, they can engage those they've only watched from the outside.  It's our prayer that the people of Korah will know that true home comes only from Him.

Pray that as their tangible needs are met, their hearts will be open to salvation.  Pray we will have the opportunity to share Christ's love and salvation if even with one person.  Pray that we would be bold but gracious, honest and loving, and testify of Him.  Pray we would only be a transparent vessel for the Spirit to be revealed.  Pray that Satan is struck from chaos and corrupting God's work.

Bound to you by His Blood~

Sunday, June 12, 2011

That's What She Said

Truth be told, "Worth the Wait" shirts were created with adoption in mind; yet as the concept evolved so did our vision for the shirt.  "Worth the Wait" fits so many genres.  For instance, Katie, a 19 year old, single girl bought the shirt with very different message in mind.

I'd like to introduce you to this girl that I LOVE!  Mature beyond her years, Katie helps our family with the kids, with life, and doing what she does best...pointing my kids to the cross with an unfailing love for God. Katie desperately desires for each area of her life to be fully submitted to the Lord's best.  Katie has committed herself to purity.  PURITY!  Really; that's what she said.

Katie sets the bar high.  She hope that her husband will be the recipient of all of the best of her, even her first kiss.  "Worth the Wait" for my sweet, sister-friend, Katie, states her commitment to purity.  One day, her husband will know HE was worth the wait.

"My husband is worth the wait," that's what she said.

Isn't that true..The Lord is good to those who wait on Him.  A profound statement on the effect of purity.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What is LoPa?

I realize many of you may read "LoPa" on my blog but may not know who, what, or why LoPa exists.  With LoPa's return trip only hours (36 but who's counting) away, I thought you might appreciate the journey to LoPa and pray for God's plan for LoPa's future. 

In spring of 2010, God weaved together the lives of three women in an undeniable way.  Within weeks of one another, the Andrews and the Knights traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to meet their newest children.  The Brookshires accompanied the Knights, their dearest friends.  They dare not miss out on the arrival of their friends’ youngest son, whom they diligently prayed for during the process of bringing him home.

The Andrews chose adoption.  Although they considered pregnancy, the Andrews few unsuccessful attempts without medical intervention reassured them of God’s plan for them.  Never did they doubt God had children for them.  They only wondered where God would lead them to find their children.  Lindsey sponsored a boy in Ethiopia. In her heart, this young man was her son.  He took up residence there.  She loved him.  She felt sure someday, he would also take up physical residence in her home; but he is still in Ethiopia.  This encouraged the Andrews to pursue older siblings and taught them family does not mean location.  They were matched with a sibling group.  Ruta and Alazar’s adoption screams of God’s sovereignty and confirmed they had heard God’s call.  Lindsey continues to pine for her son in Ethiopia and advocates for all those left behind.

Josh and Lori Knight lost 4 pregnancies after their second child due to a genetic issue.  Lori never expected another child through pregnancy, yet God gave them a third, biological son AND granted them the insatiable desire to grow their family through adoption.  God used painful losses to light a fire in the Knights hearts for orphans.  Their fourth child, Mezekir, is their first Ethiopian son.  His placement waylaid their hearts for the most needy in Ethiopia.  While in Ethiopia, Lori realized how many children she was leaving behind…children she couldn’t forget.

Paula has been termed “a mother to all.”  Though Mark and Paula Brookshire have not yet adopted, they are familiar with the beauty and impact of adoption.  Years of infertility coupled with the love of family left the Brookshires yearning.  They knew God’s intention for them to grow a family was not through fertility measures.  As their heart opened toward adoption, God miraculously gifted them with two biological daughters.  The stirring God placed in their hearts due to infertility propelled them into equipping others to adopt, advocating for the least of these, changing the lives of orphans around the globe, and remaining prayerfully open to an adoption of their own.

Ethiopia captured the hearts of Lindsey, Lori, and Paula.  God impressed on each woman the beauty of Ethiopia and the hope and joy deeply rooted in the culture despite the needs of the people and the hurt of poverty that coexist. Leaving Ethiopia with their children was bittersweet.  They understood for each of their children, millions of orphans remained in Ethiopia lonely, destitute, and powerless but waiting for hope.  Touching two, three, or four children was not enough.  God called them to more.  Love for orphans and Passion for change sparked action, which birthed LoPa.

LoPa was born of God’s call on these three women. They saw firsthand the possibility of hope amidst poverty and of touching those left behind. By selling high quality products from Ethiopian artisans, LoPa returns profits to established organizations in Ethiopia. These funds feed, educate, trade train, and provide minor medical care for orphans at Korah.  LoPa is surrendered to doing their part in following God’s call to care for the least of these. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pray Her Home

About three years ago, we officially began the adoption journey to Mez.  When we began our journey, we entreated God to surround us with like minded people in our community who would walk a similar road.  Little did we know that at that same point some of our dear friends had already begun their journey to an adoption from Ethiopia.  Three years and two children later, due to events which can only be credited to God, they still await the placement of their "Princess Ethi."  

The Ethiopian adoption process continues to slow.  Our friends have been caught in the web of delays that is characteristic to IA.  Outside of a miracle, it looks like the road to placement is still months away.  None of these circumstances are within their control; but I was reminded earlier today by my 5 year old "all things are possible for God."  Preston is right.  All things are possible for God.  

Because all things are possible for God, I am asking you to join me in praying Princess Ethi home.  Please, pray specifically for these things: 1.  All of their paperwork would remain current as the process continues AND that it would be exactly as the ET courts desire.  2.  God would supernaturally intercede and move their court date forward ahead of its scheduled date (He can.  It happens.  Ours did).  3.  A positive opinion by all parts of the ET courts.  4.  Our friends would receive an embassy date before those other families waiting on a date (sorry if this means you.  i love you, too; but their road has been so long.)  5.  No investigation by US Embassy would be necessary (as has become custom in ET).  6.  Pray that each day apart from their daughter, God would continue to soften the heart of their daughter toward her family, so when she is in their arms it would be as natural as if they had always been together.  7.  Pray for Princess Ethi's separation from the only home she's ever known.  Pray for those in ET, who love and care for her daily.  

I'm setting my alarm for 2:00 p.m. each day as a reminder to pray.  Would you join me?  Princess Ethi is long overdue.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Worth the Wait"

On the other side of the world in the bustling city of Addis Ababa, there is a set of deep, melancholic brown eyes.  These eyes, though often forlorn, light up with hope, the hope of a promised family, every now and then.  And here, just a few miles away, her mama and daddy's heart ache for their daughter.  Princess Ethi is one of many, who have waited far too long to become part of the family for which she was created.  

Adoptions around the globe appear to be in slow motion.  Court delays, investigations, and new safeguards from the judicial system are lulling the pace of adoptions into a sleep like state.  Waiting is hard.

As adoptive moms, we at LoPa Art understand 1.  God's sovereignty does not ease the pain but allows us to persevere.  2.  The agony of the process is Worth the Wait.  This understanding provoked the design of our newest t-shirt...Worth the Wait.

LoPa Art recently travelled to several shows with our art, leather, and t-shirts.  They were a hit.  HUGE hit.  Since we depart for our semi-annual buying trip to Ethiopia just next week, we need to clear out our remaining inventory; and you benefit.  

We have both children and adults' Worth the Wait shirt.  For only a few day, we are selling the shirts for $20.  No tax.  No shipping.  $20.  Easy.  Below is a list of our remaining inventory.  To order, email us at  lopa3moms at gmail dot com (or click on the "us" above) and tell us:  1. size, color, and quantity, 2. your name and address, 3. your email address.  We will bill you via paypal and pop your shirts in the mail before we jump over the ocean.  If you order more than 2 shirt, please, include an additional $2/shirt to cover the shipping.  The profit from the "Worth the Wait" shirt funds feeding at Korah.

Lucky you!  You get to spread the message (on the back of the shirt) of Lamentations 3:25, "The Lord is good to those who wait for HIM, to the soul who seeks HIM." We know that no matter the journey, waiting is hard; but when we follow Him, we find it is always “Worth the Wait.”  

All of these babies have been "Worth the Wait"

Our photographer thought a good shoot might be "Worth the Wait"

This pregnant mama knows her little one is "Worth the Wait"

Adult Shirts:

Pink with yellow-Xs-1

Blue with yellow-
L- 3

Charcoal with yellow-


Charcoal with green-

Charcoal with purple-

Putty with purple-

Children Sizes:

Pink with yellow-

Lime green with purple-

Putty with green-
XS- 0

Blue with yellow-

Brown with yellow-

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The "M" Factor

In only 6 days, me and my chickens board a Lufthansa plane to return to Ethiopia.  I've called all hands on deck to ready the family and our business, LoPa, for departure.  I assumed this would be a bit simpler this time around (like a mathematical equation, you know the parts, you work it out), since we have done this a few times prior.  BUT just like an equation, when a factor is excluded the process might be flawed...might be?  IS!!!  Well, I forgot the "M" factor.  "M" being Mez.

Mez, my sidekick, mimics my moves.  He follows.  He parodyzes me.  In most of life, no problem; but in packing, oy vey!  The "M" factor plays out like this:

Gather all socks, underwear for 6 people, and bras for mom.  Fastidiously, place in the guest room on the bed, otherwise known as collection station.  Leave to gather shoes.  Take shoes to collection station and expose a meandering trail of socks, missing undies, and a white, cotton bra on the toddler's curly-head-o-hair.  Ask the baby where he placed mommy's socks and undies.  Baby delightedly chirps back in the same uniformity as to all other questions, "Da, da.  Da, da, da, do.  Gunk."  Hunt for socks.  Regain undies (most of them that is).  Return to guest room to find Curios Mez sporting Daddy's shoes and rhythmically chanting, "Da, da, da, do. Abbaba."  9 of the 12 shoes remain on collection station; and again we begin the effort of discovery and acquisition.  Begrudgingly, "M" factor meanders alongside mama to avoid future pilfering of the packing items.  Mez's help only makes my task more arduous, so I resolve to retire my efforts until nap time. 

Rewinding and watching my life in my mind's eye, enjoying all the mayhem that accompanies parenting, I cackle aloud.  I love my life.  I love the "M" factor, the "H" factor, the "A" factor, the "P" factor, and mostly, the husband factor.  The countdown for Ethiopia is officially on; and I am anticipating a month in Ethiopia loving my ET family and my US family.  Now, if I can only get packed!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The New Happy

I remember the first day I held Mez just like it was yesterday.  I remember that round, roly poly baby lying in my arms staring up at me.  I remember those deep, dark eyes peacefully peering into my heart and his sing-song cooing.  I don't remember when that precious baby morphed into a squawking, squealing, slapping, and scowling toddler.  But that is us.  The new happy is MAD.  MAD MEZ.  

I know I've had three other toddlers.  I know at least one of them was, well, awful.  I know I'm supposed to remember this, but I just don't.  Maybe it's because Mez's face says it all.  You can read this boy like a gossip magazine at the checkout line.  There is no hiding his emotion.  Take a look for yourself.

In spite of the daily explosive emotions, Mez, you are all the better for your vim and vigor...now if we can just harness it for good.  Mama is tired!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thinking about It Doesn't Get It Done

I've been thinking about blogging.  I've dreamt about blogging.  I've constructed blogs in my sleep.  Blogging in my dreams, considering my next post, and scripting my script just doesn't get it done!

My problem is not desire.  My problem is not topic.  My problem isn't the words.  I have a problem called time!  Time to shower, time to bathe, time to fix my hair, time to put on makeup, and time to blog were demoted to the B List.  I'm incessantly consumed with things greater.

Things like this:
Napping with Mez
Or this:
Playing with Kids
Even some of this:
Cuddling with my girl
Loving some of this:
Watching my boys goof
AND finally, getting some of this:

Mez fell asleep in my arms, finally!

Sorry, I'm not blogging routinely.  I've just decided to live in the moments of each day and attempt to sleep at night, when I usually blog.  I'm going to get back on my blog horse...and ride when time allows.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wrapping It Up. ODWS.

After a full week of BUSY, let's wrap up ONE DAY WITHOUT SHOES.  I'd love to hear, not only how you participated, but also your thoughts on the effectiveness of the day, and the overall impressions of the outside world as you've heard.  If you share how you participated and a picture, via my blog and/or link on facebook, you will be entered into a drawing for your choice of a free pair of TOMS shoes.  Okay, since I asked, I'll go first.

Initially, I met with 3 other friends for a morning run as I do every Tuesday and Thursday.  We decided this Tuesday would follow the same schedule as the norm.

Swim Team Moms Meeting for a Run

Reluctantly I will admit, the run morphed into more of a jog as running barefooted outdoors in 40 degrees while pushing 45 lbs of babies in the jogger proved more uncomfortable than we anticipated.   However, we did persevere for an hour...with a few stares and much wonderment, I might add.  The end results were cold, sore feet boasting a reasonable amount of dirt.

Because our children attend swim team practice at the local junior college, we meandered onto the campus and into their gym.  Interestingly enough, college students appeared far less concerned with the dissidence of barefooted, middle-aged women trapezing around their campus.  

Next, I hosted a barefoot coffee at my favorite local cafe.  Some of my favorite people joined me for free caffeinated beverages.  Not a bad deal if I do say so myself.  Truth be told, I asked the manager/owner prior to arrival.  This seemed the best route to ensure or feral group would avoid ejection.  The cafe graciously welcomed us, and I believe they quite liked the attention it brought.  The gazes of on-lookers at the cafe proved this venue was less aware of ONE DAY WITHOUT SHOES.  I was grateful for my comrades  and the safety of numbers. 

Barefooted Comrades at the Cafe

After school and our normal commitments, all completed without shoes, my youngest two children and I visited a local park with a friend.  Many people pointed and stared.  Many whispered.  No one asked why we didn't have shoes.  I believe most people formed their own assumptions.  I wished for a sign saying, "I'm raising awareness, people.  Why don't you take your shoes off and join me?"

The most difficult point of my day occurred late afternoon.  I dropped Preston off with Daddy for their barefooted t-ball practice; then, Ann headed to gymnastics.  Mez and I braved Hunter's multi-school track meet all alone.  You see, there's something about a group and commonality that gave me confidence.  Once in a crowd of strangers, I realized I was being watched and judged, avoided and scrutinized (being a trans-racial family only adds to the mystique).  In that moment, as I reached into my purse to get my spare pair of TOMS, I envisaged the million, who go shoeless without choice.  I appreciated this  IS what it must feel like to not own shoes.  They couldn't grab a spare set of shoes from their purse.  There is no tomorrow for them to return to, no "norm" void of gawking and filled with ease and comfort of shoes.  I was embarrassed; but I was glad.

Tuesday evening, I worked barefooted at the Children's Clothing Consignment Sale...what an experience.  I went home feeling filthy from head to feet; but that's not the end of it.  Wednesday, our classical school, Classical Conversations, participated in ODWS.  What fun!  Over 65 children/families tossed off their tinnies.  

Naked Tootsies at Classical Conversations

Now, for my thoughts on ODWS:  I have quite a few friends that never intend to participate.  I have friends, who find the idea ridiculous.  I had friends commenting it wasn't 'very smart' to go without shoes because it could cause injury and/or infection.  A few thought I threw caution to the wind as I allowed my children to experience it alongside me.  Then, there were those, who recklessly kicked off their shoes and proudly pronounced the predicament of the poor around the globe.  No one lacked opinion.  GOOD!  All of these people, each one, were part of raising awareness.  That was the point of the day.  Regardless of our persuasion, when we lend an ear, share a story of the 'crazies' around us, join a cause, or reason ourselves out of or into participating, we create a ripple or a even a wave that produces change.  I liked ODWS.  I liked it so much, I'm making one last effort... giving away 2 pairs of TOMS...one to a person, who enters the drawing...the other pair is TOMS gift to a person in need (buy one, give one).