Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Journal entry while in Ethiopia- August 23rd!

I am in Ethiopia and since this is my second trip in one month, I can tell you it feels a bit like coming home. There is something here that has stolen my heart. First and foremost it is the birthplace of a little princess who sleeps next to me so sweetly and peacefully. She was born in this beautiful land of great history, beauty and friendly smiling people. She was also born into circumstances that surpass all understanding for many of us. She was born into poverty, perhaps cultural shame or maybe to unhealthy parents who would not be able to care for her. The total circumstances of her birth we may never know but we do know that God perfectly orchestrated her survival and her safety. Of course I cannot explain why her and not all the children we see who endure so much, but I find myself feeling such gratitude to God,  who rescued our daughter, first adopted her, and then connected all the many dots to make her our child. 

 Ethiopia has also stolen my heart because there are so many children who still wait. From newborn babies through young adults, we have seen the staggering numbers who wait to find their last best hope. Maybe it is their hardship that makes me want to pray over each child and ask God to connect with each individual child's heart. They are so innocent in there hardship.  I wish I could do more for the children I have met and sometimes it feels strange to know that I return home to fresh food, running water, wonderful schools and many simple comforts. After seeing all that I have seen in such places as Korah or on several of the streets of Addis Ababa, I just know there is more we can all do. International adoption for me has brought me an awareness that I always hoped I would find. Adoption is a feeling of hope and redemption. It is a feeling of being stretched to see the needs of million of children right in front of us. It seems that we as a family have now been entrusted with this priceless little gift and all God asks in return is to pass along the knowledge we have gleaned. I feel that this path has lead me to encourage others to better understand the plight of the orphan or the call of the widow. Help the child who remains behind with sponsorship, help with an education, personal letters, prayer, a visit to he or she through a mission trip or very simply by sharing your own testimony with others. 

Tomorrow we head back to a shopping area of Ethiopia called the Post Office shops and I cannot tell you how eager I am to revisit the orphaned children who sleep across the street under the bus station. They are orphans and beg to survive. Not only do they beg for money to eat but one child begged me to bring him to America. His question haunts me yet I find myself giving a wink and a nod to God every time I think of it.  Helping one child at a time when there are millions is all we can do. Just BE THE CHANGE  for one. Help one. Pray for one. Pay for one. Think of one. Adopt one into your hearts or perhaps your homes-JUST ONE can make all the differnece. And all the while thank God for first adopting YOU!

Here is Uncle Wass as we loved to call him with my sweet little Miss on his shoulders. Don't cha love his t-shirt?
You can get one here

Wass is the driver for All God's Children International but to all of us visiting Ethiopia to meet and then pick up our children, Wass was so much more. During our final day in Addis Ababa many of us were yearning to het out of the city a bit to view the beautiful countryside that everyone talks about. Wass agreed to take us and we had such a dleightful morning of celebration and fun as we navigated the streets of Ethiopia with Wass at the helm. We ended up heading south into the courtyside and stopping all along the way to bring birr and snacks to the peopleof the various villages we saw. We were reaching out with snacks, kind words, photos and of course smiles. It was sucha  feeling of 
joy as we opened the doors to our bus to stand before each child with hunger or great need. We were just giving and loving and enjoying all the beauty of the Ethiopian countryside.
I was amazed just how
motivated Wass is to help his own people. He loved every minute of showing off his country and he took every opportunity to jump out of the bus and deliver a snack to the little ones we would see on the side of the road. 
It was a priceles morning and frankly it was an amazing feeling to give everything we had in birr and food away.
Wish I could do more of that every day of my life!

This little peanut below was simply a stunning child. He was standing all alone across from what appeared to be his house 
and he was as eager to see us as we were to see him.
In our culture we would not just accept any ole snack provided by a stranger but in a land where 
people work so hard and generally have so little, each person or child we encountered was eager to eat and excited to accept our small gift. It was a precious exchange. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Celebrating with friends...

I have this friend who always amazes me! She is absolutely over the top with creative and beutiful ideas and insight. She works so hard to make things special for others. It's downright impressive and sometimes a bit disturbing :) She is such a talent and has become so special in my life. Last night myself and Ava attended a little welcome home shower at her festive home. Ava was the star of the show and it was so amazing to see so many women who I admire and adore just loving on her. Of course I did all the holding so Miss Ava was a bit of eye candy for the many mommies who cannot wait to get their arms on her. Soon everybody soon!

It was great fun to celebrate Ava with friends, wine, a scrumptious tomato tart, homemade cheesecake and very special and girlie gifts. The evening kicked off a bit late for Ava so when she became fussy I had to do the stand up only thing that she generally requires in order to fall asleep. In doing so the gift opening came to a halt until we discovered a clever new trick... Try this -you might love it as much as I did. Each guest opened their own gift. Sounds strange but it was great. We found that everyone began to explain their gifts from the wrapping they selected, to where they had shopped, to the gems inside. It was very special to hear all the detail that went into the shopping for Ava. She is so blessed to have so many wonderful women who truly love her already. The hostess of the shower is also an artist and designer and she surprised me with a beautiful art piece for Ava's room. She painted a large tree and as soon as we can coordinate it all of us will place our handprints on the tree to look like leaves. She even painted in a little owl perched on the branch of the tree. I'ts very special and I'll be sure and post some photos when the room is all complete.

It was a low key and very sweet evening of celebration. Each person who attended has a special place in my life and n my heart. Thank you dear friends for all the love and support you have shown throughout the journey to our daughter. Get ready to answer this boy momma's big questions as I begin to get acclaimated and up to speed on the whole girl world! My first big discovery has been that hangers are going to be key... leggings, hairbows, socks- OH MY!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The daily grind...

This morning worked out a very differently than I planned as of midnight last night when I finally turned out my light. We woke early to the news that due to a major thunderstorm that rumbled through last night, the 5th and 6th grade school would be closed. Secondly my eight year old was up and at em with the same symptoms he has had for a few days off and on related to a crazy stomach. Next it was Ava who woke with a funky nose and loud congestion. Yeah it was not going to be the morning I had planned. On Wednesdays I attend a community bible study packed with interesting and insightful women. This morning we were digging into Colossains, but it was not meant to be today for me.

So here I sit thinking "yeah sometimes this daily grind of doing laundry and cleaning cleaning bottles, picking up and making beds feels like a true albatross." It can feel lonely and unimportant. There must be some of you out there who would certainly agree. :) Sometimes I would like to reinvent the role of SAHM with a fresh job description that does not include all the duties outside of hanging with my kiddos. So while my little one is napping, my eldest building stuff in the basement, one at school and one is chilling on the couch, I catch myself looking around and feeling so overwhelmed. This is my life? Yes, I know it sounds ridiculously selfish. It is selfish, however I am evolving... I have a new perspective that continues to shine through. It feels fresh and hopeful. I think my new perspective has been with me all along but it is now beginning to live in the driver's seat of my soul. In fact I am thankful each day when the new thoughts trump the old thoughts and I am able to realize that nothing I am enduring or putting up with (so to speak) even begins to compare with some of the hardship I have seen. I am telling you people there is a reason why we were sent to Ethiopia and I am sure as sure can be that the answer may just be bigger than one sweet baby who is now the love of our lives! Our work there feels far from done.

In the midst of my to-dos and my overwhlemed drama my new perspective sound something like this:

I have a roof over my head and a cozy warm bed to fall into at night. I have air conditioning and heat and lights to guide me. I have telephones and electrical outlets. I have food and clean water coming from several places inside my home. I live in a comfortable neighborhood with school buses that pull through to pick up the children. These things I now see I have taken for granted. In addition I have shoes and a warm coat. I have an automobile and a bicycle. I even have a safe place to store these items. So little I could want for...I have a husband and four amazing children! I have family and friends to share my life with who communicate and comfort and protect and love me in so many unconditional ways. I have dreams and passions and ideas that I am free to share and begin to discover. I have a faith that I am free to share.

 I am still reeling from my two trips to a land and a people who have so much less, yet were ripe with smiles, charisma, character, strong work ethic and grace. My Ethiopia experience has changed and rearranged me more than I ever thought imaginable. I am being tugged and prodded to look beyond my own days and my own plans and open my eyes wide to see what God has planned. There is something there and I am listening openly each day to know what it is. With more than I want at my fingertips I am puzzled by the calling to want to give more and more of it away. To some of you I am sure to sound crazy, but really... it feels good, like a cure for all the ails us in the land of wanting more. NOW more than ever I want more for others. I want to pluck a struggling child from the streets and help he or she become safe and educated (STAY TUNED FOR THAT STORY IF I CAN EVER GET IT ALL WRITTEN), I want to dialogue with others about how we can BE THE CHANGE one child at a time, partnering with those people who have paved roads before me. I want to plan my next trip to Ethiopia to make a difference in the lives of orphans. I want to parent my daughter to know how much we love her culture and that we are richly blessed that she has joined our family. The list goes on and on...

So this morning in my pity party moments of chaos and needing to change my plans, I am reminding myself of the people of Korah who traverse huge rocks and oceans of mud during the rainy season in very minimal or no shoes, some headed to the trash dump to look for items to sell in order to eat.  I think about the pack of children I met who spend their days waiting for any tourists to arrive in a main shopping area so that they might gain a few birr for some sort of sustenance that day. I think of the dear boy, Bruhani and all he has endured since his parents died when he was very young. His story puts what I sometimes call my daily grind into perpective. Some days when I am in the thick of a sick child,  a new baby, mounds of laundry, phone calls that need returning, errands that need doing, homework that must be completed and so many stories in my head just waiting to be told, I am grateful for perspective!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our cocoon...

We are living in our cocoon these days.  What is a cocoon? Well for a busy family with four kiddos our cocoon may look and feel different than it would if we had only one child but for all intents and purposes it is for us an awareness that Ava needs to be cared for, fed, held, comforted, changed and bathed primarily by us. I tell people that our cocoon is a way to make sure that Ava begins to understand that we are her people. That may sound funny but it is oh so true. We want her to bond with us. We want her to hear us as we function as a family. We want her to be comforted and feel protected by us. She has been through so much in her short almost five month life and although she was well cared for in Ethiopia she was cared for by several people before ever meeting us. Therefore it is vital that she become aware of all the ways we will meet her needs and like I said become her people.

The cocooning for us looks like this. We stay home more than usual so that we can establish a consistent routine and so that Ava begins to recognize her world fully. We are keeping her world and the people in it quite small. Now this is not as easy as it sounds and with grandparents chopping at the bit and people delievering us amazing dinners each day. It feels like we are far from perfect with the small aspect but we are keeping a tight hold on Miss Ava. We are keeping her with us at all times, interacting with her, playing games and completing homework right near her side. We are making eye contact and having little photo sessions, all things that build the connection. What I love most is seeing her big eyes. She does not miss a trick and she knows where I am at all times. She has been in my arms for nearly a month total now and it feels like she is bonding very well. She is happy, animated, cooing and certainly tracking and interacting in everything we as a family do. I should also mention that her brothers cease every opportunity to interact with her from rolling little trucks alongisde her body, to carrying her around the house, to just sitting with her on the couch or the floor.  They too are in love with Ava.

Today when Hayden returned home from school he walked right up to Ava and kissed her on the cheek saying, "It's OK Ava, I am home now." I mean seriously, does it get any sweeter than that? Owen likes to discuss her cough and he believes she must have had it while she was in Ethiopia. :) Carter well he is her protector in the car and reminded me today that Ava was not properly buckled in. Oh yeah I never finished with my list of things we do to cocoon but here are a few things we have to do in the cocoon as well. I have to pck up kids from school or the bus stop. I have had to run errands for Bob as it relates to his relocation of his office and we have had to get all the boys to soccer practices and tournaments. The life we shared as a family before bringing Ava home has not stopped. It has been a bit  more slow on purpose but Ava is learning that she must go with the flow, even if GOING means having to ride in the dreaded car seat. Where that is cncerned she wishes she was riding free as a bird in the AGCI bus with Wass as her tour guide headed out to the countryside. Me too baby girl- me too!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Learning, Love, Longing and reLocating

What a week! I sit here tonight in awe of all the challenges and opportunities we faced this week.
The boys all started school on Tuesday. It is the first time they are all in school all day. It was such a change to have them all three gone for the day. H-man is now at the 5/6 buiding so C and O take the bus in the mornings and the afternoons and they are A-OK without their fearless leader. 

The first school morning all three boys begged to wake up Ava before thier departure.  They were desperate to see her before beginning their day. Of course the rule of never waking a sleeping baby always applies in this house so that idea was a no go. Bob delievered the youngest two kiddos to the bus and just before backing out of the driveway Owen jumped out of the backseat and ran around the car for a final kiss. It was priceless. Within minutes of their departure Hayden and I heard Ava and Hayden raced up the stairs to get his sister for a few back to school shots on the front porch. She was happy to cooperte as she wakes up so happy most mornings.

Tuesday Ava and I laid low. She napped for a couple long stretches and I began my journey into what has been building in my heart as it relates to my return next spring to Ethiopia. I can tell you it is a longing that I never saw coming. There is a hole in my heart for the many children and people who need a smile, a touch or a kind word in Ethiopia. I want to go back. I want to step out and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who need it so. I want to inspire others to consider visiting orphans. I want to educate myself and in turn educate others as to all the ways we can help the vulnerable women and children of the world. It is a desire that I have prayed I might someday find. I am willing to accept the challege, roll up my sleeves and dig in. This of course does not alter my job as a Mother but I hope to 
combine the two and hopefully begin to involve my children as they age.

The clarity I found in Ethiopia is a miracle of sorts and has helped me begin to put more things into perspective than ever before.
next came Wednesday and I knew it was time to take Ava in for the bloodwork needed to get her all checked out. It was horrible and while I held her little boday so tight making sure to keep her still, I felt my heart just bursting with love. My tears ran as her tears ran and I felt true love for my daughter. how much I love her! I love her more than I can put into words. I feel like she is the biggest blessing and that I have been given such a gift in this sweet child with the big beautiful eyes. 
She has stolen my heart and she fits so well in our wild and crazy family. Fast forward into early Thursday when our pediatrican himself calls with a strange sounding voice. Yep not a good feeling... 
What we did not count on was receiving news that Ava had elevated white bloodcount and she needed a chest xray due to her persistent cough. So off we ventured again and I had to let the nurses strap her to this small xray chair. I held her hands and talked to her as soothingly as I could and frankly I prayed. My prayer was for all the babies coming home to forever families to somehow understand that we love them and we can be trusted in spite of the tests that hrt or frighten.
It was a tough afternoon. We waited and waited.
Then came the answer- hookworm.  
Yes I know. I probably should keep that private but really it is a bigger issue at this point. I hope this blog serves as a resource to others who may be adopting and I want others to know that parasites happen. Click here for a great resource for hookworm and other parasitic infections. I am struck by the fact that deworming drugs, proper sanitation methods and probably most important, SHOES are the best ways to help those who live with parasites. NOt so easy if you live in subsaharan Arfica or a very poverty ridden area of Asia. Perhaps you make a living as a farmer in Latin America. The larvae cycle moves from soil to the body and back again and there are no tests or drugs to prevent infestations.  It hits very close to home that Ava, if she were left untreated, could suffer from long term mental and physical impairment.
Nearly one tenth of the world's population is infected and 44 million are pregnant women who would give birth to very low weight babies with greater risk of death due to improper protein nutrition. 
Once again it is the women and children of the world who are most at risk. It is tough to get right with that when I am able to pick up a test kit, send it to a lab and then treat my daughter for a condition that is rampant where she was born.  It's another example of how called I feel to BE THE CHANGE.
What can I do to save ONE women or one child from the long term effects of parasites?

I am realizing this morning that something happened to last night's writing. UGH! I think I need to change to Wordpress

Our relocating began in full force over the weekend cause believe it or not after three plus years of thinking about adoption and over three years of searching for the perfect location for Bob's move to a new office as a third generation owner after 42 years in the same location, everything all came down to this month. Yep that is how we seem to roll around here. WE are a bit nuts but that is how we roll! 
So the build out of the new office is complete and this weekend it was time to decorate. Our Friday night date was this... Mom, Dad and daughter hanging out at the office decorating. As we hung art work I watched Ava watching us. I look over at Bob and said, "It is as if she had to come all the way from Ethiopia in time to see all of this come together." She did not want to miss out on a dream coming true.
Two big dreams coming TRUE in one month. 
We are richly blessed beyond our wildest dreams. To HIM we give all the glory.
Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One week Home

We have been home one week, Miss Ava and myself, and things are going well. She is a gem and save for all her spitup issues that we are working to figure out or may simply have to wait for her to outgrow, she is a dream of a baby. She is our fourth child so perhaps we are just a bit more on track with how to meet her needs but we stand in awe as to how perfect she fits our family!

Most of you know I have a thing for photos! I love to take photos, I love to look at photos, There is something so rewarding in playing around with my camera until I capture just the right moment. The problem is that as hard as I have tried, I still tend to have camera issues when shooting outside of auto mode which I try to no longer do. That is a whole other topic but suffice it to say that those who have helped me to better understand photography have finally convinced me that with good equipment I must shoot in a  manual mode or never get beyond the basic shot. I am a work in progress let me tell you but I keep thinking that 
Passion can often trump knowledge :)
So while going through the hundreds of photos I would like to share from our trip and our first week home, I stumbled across this one taken this week of Ava:

You know what I love about it?

You got it. 
To me it is the perfect image to remind all of us that so often life is blurry.
Life can be messy and even at its best very unclear.
our journey to Ava, which began two years ago on paper and four years or more ago in 
our hearts, was very blurry.
We had mountains of fear and so many questions.
At times the process seemed insurmountable
We were the very busy parents of three boys, we own a business,
we had roles in our church, our school district, our community.
We had taken my Mom in who had a terrible accident and she lived with us for nearly 8 months.
Really it seemed there were just too many things going on all around us to 
even consider adopting.
The nudging and the feeling that we were meant to do something related to adoption
would simply not go away. There were days when I  sort of wanted the feeling to end.
We were getting old and our boys were growing up... NOT GOD'S PLAN!
I kid you not when I say that not a week would go by without my excitement in telling 
my husband about another connection I had made related to adoption. It would happen 
so often that I would begin laughing when a conversation would start. I would expect to turn on the radio and hear something related to Ethiopia. When we finally started the process there was no question that the agency would be All God's Children International but we were unsure about the country.
We initially chose Nepal for many reasons but again ENTER GOD...
We spent several months worrying about our choice to be in the Nepal program. There was little transparency and we felt very unsure about where we stood with the timeline of the program.
this process for us was 
Finally after a million signs and many conversations we both KNEW beyond a doubt that Ethiopia 
was where we were meant to be all along.
The change in programs was a BIG STRUGGLE.
We had to begin again, all the paperwork, the money and the home study...
Yes indeed it all had to be done again!

There is so much more to the story of hurdles and roadblocks that happen in adoption.
I am asked daily why it is not easier to adopt and now I have a clarity that I lacked two years ago...
My answer to that question now is this...
Perhaps the process of adoption is challenging in order to challenge us.
Do we have a faith that is giant enough to see us through.
Will we turn and run the other direction when the situation is not going as we 
have planned? Will we trust, pray and share our thoughts and fears with others?
Will we develop a community within the adoption world who will help squelch our fears with their own stories?
You see God not only wanted us to bring home a little one who needed a family from Ethiopia but 
HE wanted to change and rearrange our hearts. That was the grand plan! 
So even the BLURRY days were days of purpose.

I tell you all this and show you sweet little Ava's blurry face to encourage you to keep pressing forward.
Adoption is not a simple task but it is not meant to be.
Wear a smile each day knowing that if adoption has chosen you well you are richly blessed and 
should be pinching yourself with anticipation and excitement. For you have so much ahead that God wants you to experience. You are chosen and we are chosen.
After all we were adopted into God's kingdom.
Enjoy the moments and remember that clarity might just come later in the 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It begins with one...

Being home has been better than we could have expected. With all the crazy days of three boys being home and adding a 4 month new baby to our mix I must admit I was a bit terrified as to how it was all going to go. What I have found in the few short days we have been home is that keeping it simple and staying true to the cocooning is making a big difference in all our lives. In fact I feel like we are all right where we belong so to speak. Ava is thriving, the boys are enjoying their days and we are all working hard to prepare for a new back to school attitude and routine.  Now if I could just get back to some sort of normal sleep pattern I would be a bit higher functioning during the day. I am trying to get Ava and her love of sleep to rub off on me. She is a good little sleeper save for the waking during the night to eat.
We are working on that :)

So here she is with her curls slicked back and her eyes filled with enthusiasm after a bath.
She is joyful and each day I already see her changing and growing. I am trying with diligence to 
take in all her subtle cues and changes. We are getting to know one another and although she tries to 
psych me into feeding her when she really just wants to sleep, I am beginning to figure this little girlfriend out. Gotta love babies and all that they say without ever saying a word!

While we are busy here settling into new routines and our newest addition, I find myself unable to stop thinking of all the children left behind. This entire journey began with one. We chose to heed the call, knowing we could adopt one child. What I never anticipated at this stage of my life was feeling that there is more than one who needs us. Now obviously at some point we do realize with great clarity that we cannot adopt them all. In fact after spending just over two full weeks in Ethiopia, I do not necessarily believe that all the needy kids should leave Ethiopia to come to America. Yes many need home but I am looking to advocate for the children who are orphaned and to some degree thriving on the streets.
Many of the children do seem to get by even though it is a horrible and very unpredictable existence. I witnessed and met so many children in the city who have no family, no home and basically nothing to their names and they are not part of any foster care or orphanage. Perhaps they are ages 10 and above. Who wants to help those children?
As the mother of three sons now ages 6, 8 and nearly 10, I was so drawn to the such children.
They were so dear and so endearing. They offered to shine shoes for mere pennies, they smiled for my camera often asking for nothing, they stared with wonder as they saw me holding my new daughter. They were dirty, they were hungry, they were often coughing or had runny noses, but what surprised me most is this:
They were still joyful. They were still hopeful, they were still smiling, they were still trying to get by, they were banded together, many of them as a family unit, they were gracious, they were able to accept hugs and affection. 
I simply never knew I would be so drawn to wanted to better understand their lives, their stories and their needs.
You see every day I meet the daily needs of my children who have it all. We eat, we play, we bathe, we brush teeth, we plan adventures and explore new things, we attend school and learn, we ready books and we attend church and many fun outings. We snuggle and laugh and sometimes debate and argue. We crawl into warm beds and worry not about what tomorrow brings. That is our reality and although I am very grateful and by no means suggesting that there is anything wrong with that scenario, I am beginning to feel compelled to share all that we have in a way I never saw coming. 
With all the visible need in Ethiopia, I just wanted to share my smiles, my hugs, my thoughts, my resources, my faith with the children who seem forgotten on the streets. 
Yes, there are needy children all over the world but I now see that God used me during my visits to 
connect with THESE children. Now I am praying and searching hard as to how I must act. This 
journey began with one child but perhaps 
there is a next child, the next one who we help. Maybe we reach out to one and then two and than three. Isn't that what God means when he says we must defend the fatherless?

Maybe the small group who sleep in a bus overhang near the shopping area called the Post Office in Addis Ababa, is the next "ONE" we are meant to help. Maybe it was God's plan all along to give me the precious little one with the sparkling Ethiopian eyes in order to remind me to keep my eyes on HIM, to keep my eyes wide open. Perhaps it was all part of the plan that we were one of the very first families to have to travel twice to Ethiopia after a two year wait to adopt. Maybe it was God's hand leading me to Korah
left by her own Mother at the age of seven, would be granted so much healing and grace in my forties as I finally embrace the fact that I cannot change the past but I can be a part of healing the future.

I believe we are not meant to know all that lies ahead of us. God's work, I have rapidly realized over the past few years, is hard work. It is demanding and maybe if we knew ahead of time all that would be asked of us, we would never crawl out of bed. We might never accept the challenge. We might even run in the other direction pleading not to be the chosen one.  I love the visual of the Mother of four who feels like her plate is sooo full running in the opposite direction all the while yelling, "no please do not pick me. I just need a few hours to myself and a very long nap." Now what fun would that be? 

Right now there are many questions...
 Please pray for me to be open to the answers. 
Here are the children of the Post Office area in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Oh and one more thing... what did 12 year old Brahane ask me for when I inquired what I could bring him when I returned to pick up our daughter? Books. Can you imagine that?
Books. Just books.

Here is the crew... They are precious and so stinkin handsome!
The little guy in front- just look at him and you can see that he can 
pull some heartstrings!

Here is my dear boy, Brahane,  and his friend. I asked him to show me where he sleeps each night and this 
is where he took me...

Can you imagine sleeping here?
What if your children slept here?

Here is the sweetest smiling face of a child who is loving being the center of the universe for at least a hour. I spent time with his friend who owns a small shop. Here we are exchanging information so we can communicate about how to best help the boys.

After spending time dialogueing about how we can help I took Brahane
down and around the corner to buy a pair of shoes. His feet were so 
worn and so tattered and filthy that he was made to wear a plastic bag in order to 
try on shoes. 

What an amazing afternoon of being the light for one child...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 1st

As I turn the page on August and look ahead into September I am reminded of what a whirlwind of a summer it has been. Wow! I recently had a friend email me with this comment, "So let me get this straight- you have had your sister's wedding, two kiddos birthday parties, a family funeral, the referral of your daughter, a trip to Ethiopia, an new office being built for Bob, several first time camp experiences, a baby shower, another trip to Ethiopia and now a new addition to your family." Ha! Seeing it all down in list form does crack me up! I guess that is the way we roll around here and life is too short to miss much. There is great work to be done and we are generally happy to accept the challenge. Somehow everything has felt as though it all has happened at once but I keep reminding myself that there is a reason. God is trying to tell me to let go of the little things and to focus less on all the fringe that does not matter. Of that I am sure.

I have moments of feeling sad about the boys all returning to school yet I know they have had such a joy filled and memorable summer. They have played hard and soaked in all the sunny days. They have matured in areas we never saw coming and so far have amazed us now that their sister is HOME.

Take our six year old... Owen. I keep pinching myself as I watch him since our return home with Ava.
He is loving being the big bro and had I known he would clean up his act this much (LOL) I might have considered adding a younger child years ago. Of course this may be the honeymoon phase but I am grateful for all the positive interactions with my youngest son. He is such a fast acting, confident kid who likes to do it all his way and to see him interact in our new family of six is truly precious. I love you 
dear Owen. Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing all that first grade holds for you!

Then there is middle brother, Carts. He is such a gem and shows so much love toward Ava already!
Yesterday he sat with his sister on the floor while I scrambled to shower. He showed her toys and I could hear him just chatting with her. All was great until she spit up. Well then it all broke loose and my 
moment alone to get ready was over. The boys all crack me up about the spit up. They can't seem to take it and they flee at the first sight. The bad news is our sweet daughter cannot make it through an hour without major spit up. Our first doctor's apt is this Friday so we look forward to getting things all checked out. 
I just love how Carter and Ava share the same big soulful eyes!

Hayden, the oldest of our brood, is in love and has quickly taken on the leadership role of making sure Ava's needs are met and that all the brothers are handling her properly. Is is quite amazing to watch and I love when he roams around the house with her over his shoulder. Yesterday her little arm was draped down over his arm and he said. "Mom , look how cool her skin color is." My heart melted! The boys are aware that Ava looks a bit different but there is nothing negative about different. How could I ask for anything more positive than that?  Children are so raw, so smart and so pure in their thoughts and they can teach us all so very much!
Hayden loves the stories both Aunt Shanny and myself told about our days with Ava in Ethiopia. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, who saw Ava each day did the Ethiopian snap and pucker sound. Those of you who have been there with babies in tow must know what I am talking about. Every hotel  and restaurant employee did it and every person we encountered as we made our way out of Addis did the same thing. Obviously, it is a cultural thing and Hayden dances around snapping a puckering until Ava lights up in smiles. 

Bring on a long Labor Day weekend, football games, back to school, packing lunches, and a new bedtime routine. The next few weeks sure should be interesting.
Peace and love to you all!

Into Our Arms Forever!

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welcome home ava! from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.

Meeting Ava during our first trip to Ethiopia

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Meeting Ava Ethiopia Trip July 2010 from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.

Korah- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

During our recent visit to Ethiopia I felt very called to the village of Korah in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. There have been numerous rumblings lately about the tremendous need to help the children of Korah who are growing up in and around the local trash dump. The village was established 75 years ago as a place to send people with leprosy who were said to be cursed. Now there is a 3rd generation of people living in Korah with nearly 100,000 suffering from such things as leprosy, HIV, misc disease and of course malnutrition. There are many children of Korah who have been forced to live and work at the trash dump in hopes of finding food and possible items to sell in Korah's center of town. With the start of the Great Hope Church in Korah and the building of a shelter, along with the ministry of local Sammy Liben and Sumer Yates, there is now a feeding program and a sponsorship program in place to rescue the forgotten children of Korah and send them to boarding school where they can escape the horror of the conditions of living and working in a large trash dump. For more information please visit: or where you can learn more about how you or your organization can help the people and the children of Korah. Please send me a message or email Erin Allen at to request sponsorship information. I will soon be posting the photos of my day recently spent in Korah. I must tell you it was life changing and beyond anything I have ever done to stretch, change and rearrange myself. God helped me to help the people who I met. Much of what I could offer was nothing more than the snap of my camera or a warm touch or an inviting smile. The needs in Korah are beyond our wildest imagination yet God is over Korah and there is already amazing work being done. I invite you to view the following videos to learn more about the beauty and the needs of Korah's people.


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Hannah's Hope Orphanage- Ethiopia

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