Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Get To The Point You Ninny!

Today I learned the true meaning of the statement, "it's the thought that counts".

Rather than having it explain away a tacky sweater from in-laws, or a fruitcake from a coworker, I learned the depth of what it can mean, of what it is meant to communicate.

Rather than hearing it as a cynic, today I can say I understand what it looks like, due to a gift from the heart, made sacrificially without thought for self, from one who loves without knowing those she loves.

Sappy? Get to the point, you ninny? Ok, I will.

Today we got a package from Julie H., which she brought from Addis with her on her last visit. She delivered letters for us to the girls, and brought something in return.

Marta wrote a return letter, and then took Julie into her room she shares with the other older girls at Layla. She took down a small box of her personal items, and proceeded to carefully choose a gift for each of us, her family, from the small collection of her things, and sent them to us via Julie. Lisa has a necklace, and the rest of us have bracelets, which are the most precious gifts my children have ever received.

I can't tell you how deeply touched I am that my 13 year old daughter would send us these things of hers, and how easy the tears well up when I tell the story - which I have, to anyone who will listen. What she surely doesn't understand is that she is the gift, from another great gift giver.

The thoughts that jumped into my mind were of the biblical stories of the widow's mite, and Mary's tears and perfume to honor her Savior. Great gifts, which didn't escape notice, and showed the heart of the giver. You see, what Jesus could have said to the rest of the people present, the ones who didn't get it, was that it was the thought that counts.

I speak of the beauty I see in my girls, and yes, I do think they are lovely. But my daughter has incredible inner beauty, depth of character, and a loving heart. I can't wait to meet her.

Monday, October 30, 2006

New Court Date

I just learned that the new date for Group A to be in court is November 3rd, which is this Friday. It is good to hear that things are going to start moving forward for everyone who is waiting for their kids.

The Zinfandel must have done the trick. Any excuse, you know.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I almost called this reality bites, and even though that is true, we choose how we respond to things in life. In Searching For God Knows What, Donald Miller quotes a friend of his who set him straight when he was whining about something. Don said to his friend, "but the facts of reality stink." His friend replied that "reality is like a fine wine, it will not appeal to children."

When we began down the path of adopting the girls in Ethiopia, we knew that there are some truths we would become part of. Relative to China (our previous adoptions) the process in Ethiopia is much less regimented, and with that comes some room for less than predictable timing. The upside to that is that the process can be much faster than working with China, so there is give and take. We are currently on the give end of things, and in the end the bump in the road with getting to court will probably be a pretty minor setback.

So with that in mind, today I decided that I was going to have peace about this latest waiting, and that is what I am trying to do. God is in the business of being in control and working out details, so I will trust Him, and welcome the fact that sometimes reality stinks. Although the glass half-full reality is that we are really close to the end of this latest journey, and soon I will be leaving to meet our 2 new lovely daughters in Addis.

To do something positive, I packed one of our big rolling duffel bags for Ethiopia with all of Marta's and my things, and a bunch of things for the guest house - board games and such. The other big duffel is saved for supplies to take to AHOPE.

Now I am going to open a bottle of Maryhill Zinfandel, which is as close as I get to fine wine, because it does appeal to me.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Turning Blue

It has been a dry few weeks of writing for me as I feel like I have been holding my breath in anticipation of the girls court date and the desire to then make travel plans. I still haven't let out my breath...

There was an issue with the annual renewal of our agency's license with the Ethiopian government, and some new paperwork they wanted to see this year. That has been the delay, and yesterday we heard from our agency that the license has now been renewed, and they anticipate having news of a new court date for us either today or tomorrow. Good news as it is a step forward (after a couple back) but still very frustrating as it could be ??? when we actually get into court.

Travel for me would still be ~4 weeks after that date, so we have probably slipped into December for travel for Marta, and who knows when for Meklit. Sometime early next year. I know we have only even known about the girls since May, and didn't start our paperwork till June, but this is KILLING ME!!!

The other good news is that as I said below, our friend Erin is in Addis right now with her daughter Belane, and she has spent time with both Meklit and Marta, and her messages about the girls are very encouraging. She and Denise both say that Marta is VERY shy, and we will have to go slowly with her. That will be tough for me when I first get to Layla, and for our family when we get home, but God knew all about that when He chose us all for each other.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Belane And Her Family

Over at Erin's blog there is a wonderful story unfolding. Erin and her husband Josh have just been reunited with Belane, and will be bringing her home with them soon. All of the adoption stories you read on blogs mostly center on paperwork and waiting and the emotions tied to both, but here you get to read along as this family gets to do the fun (and very emotional) part as well.

Many times this part doesn't get much coverage because of fatigue, lack of internet access, etc. but with Erin and her great access to broadband at the Addis Hilton, there should be plenty to consume as you follow along on their journey. I know I was choked up today reading about their first day together, and my thoughts of being in their shoes made me ache with desire to go soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Not Quite Yet

Got confirmation this morning of the bad news I had heard through the grapevine that Group A's cases hadn't made it through court on Monday, and would be "rescheduled". If I wasn't feeling still out of it from 3 days of stomach flu I would post some encouraging scripture about patience, and trusting in Him, but I don't have the energy.

But, I do know they are there and that He is in control. Frustration or not, we are near the end of the road for Marta, and she will be home in His perfect timing.

Monday, October 09, 2006

One Step Closer

The news we were anticipating came out this morning, and we are happy to say that Marta and Meklit will be ours next Monday! That is the date for their case to be heard in court, and the outcome is that they will be ours.

The next step is for documents to go through the system and their embassy appointment will be ~4 weeks later, at which point I can travel and bring Marta home. This should mean that I will be over in Addis in mid-November, and Marta and I should be home before Thanksgiving. Lots to be thankful for this year.

I will be able to spend time with Meklit on that trip, but she has to wait a couple more months before we can bring her home. Having her home for Christmas seems like too much to hope for, but you never know!

Time to start packing!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Life as an Ordinary Radical

I am in the midst of reading Shane Caiborne's book The Irresistible Revolution - Living As An Ordinary Radical. In ways it is much like Donald Miller's books, as Shane looks at faith from a different perspective than most, which I really like. But it is different too, in that while both inspire you to rethink your paradigm for following Christ, Shane's style leads you to a more practical end, and challenges you to not only think and see things differently, but to live a life that is evidence of that change.

I got my first taste of Shane's book through some link on some blog a few months back, and was hooked and had to get the book. If you click on the book cover above, it will link you to a chapter of the book in .pdf about his working with Mother Teresa for a summer. It is such good stuff, that I don't think you will be able to resist getting the book for yourself to read the rest of the chapters.

While I am tempted to cut and paste most of the chapter here for you to read, I will hold back and just give a couple teasers from the sample chapter linked at The Simple Way.

When Paul writes, “The life I live I no longer live but Jesus lives in me,” he meant it. Over and over, the dying and the lepers would whisper the mystical word namaste in my ear. We really don’t have aword like it in English (or even much of a Western conception of it). They explained that namaste means “I honor the Holy One who lives in you.” I knew I could see God in their eyes—was it possible that I was becoming a Christian, that in my eyes they could catch a glimpse of the image of my Lover?

I came forward and sat in the doctor’s seat and began staring into the man’s eyes, and the decision had already been made. I began carefully dressing the man’s wound. He stared at me with such intensity; it was like he was looking into my soul. Every once in a while he would close his eyes in pain. When I was finished, he said to me that sacred word I had come to love, “Namaste.” I smiled with tears in my eyes, and whispered “Jesus.” He saw Jesus in me. And I saw Jesus in him. I remember thinking back to one of the stained-glass windows of my United Methodist Church bought for over $100,000. I saw a clearer glimpse of Jesus in this leper’s eyes than any stained-glass window could ever give me. I knew that I had not just looked into the eyes of some pitiful leper in Calcutta, but I gazed into the eyes of Jesus, and he had not just seen some rich, do-gooder, white kid from America, but he had seen the image of God in me. That is nuts. If we began to truly believe that we no longer live but Jesus lives in us, as Paul says, our world would look very different. Living in the leper colony, I felt like I had entered the Gospels. They became three-dimensional.

It is full of good, difficult, challenging, inspiring, sure-to-stir-some-people-up stuff. The back cover of the book says "Shane's message will comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable..."

Which are you?

Monday, October 02, 2006

She's A Star

Thank you Anne and Steve!!! Today in the mail we received a CD from them, with a movie of Marta and some of the older girls from Layla singing a New Year's song. They are clapping and singing, and Marta is keeping rhythm on a hand drum (empty can) and singing along.

It is exciting to see my girl, and to see her singing is even better, but this was the ultimate. You see, I am pure hack when it comes to hand drumming, but still, deep down inside of me there is some real rhythm dying to come out, and I have been playing djembe for about 9 years now. I have played on the worship teams at our churches, and love it, but alas, am a hack. So to see my baby girl jamming with some real rhythm on a hand drum, well it just about brings tears to this dad's eyes.

There is hope for the family name now, and I am already talking serious smack around the house that this proves that there is beat in these dry bones, and MY DAUGHTER is the proof! Now I am certain that I will be taking a smaller djembe to Layla when I go, and the drum in this pic is nearly identical to the one Marta will be playing when she gets home.

So thanks again Anne & Steve, you have made my day bright, and the movie has been playing on repeat since I got home from work. The other members of the family don't have the deeply committed appreciation to be able to listen to it for hours, but then, this is a dad & daughter thing.

Warm And Fuzzy

Lisa and I were talking this morning about a number of things, and it really got me thinking. The 30 Days of Nothing thing just came to an end for quite a few families, and I made a comment to one of Mary's posts at Owlhaven about it. My comment was on the line of thinking that while we are restocking our pantries and getting back to normal, or normal minus a little bit because of slightly changed perspectives about consumerism, the families we would be emulating are starting another 30 Days of Nothing, as they cannot restock and talk about how wonderful it is to have this new perspective, over a big celebratory bowl of Ben & Jerry's, Blue Bell, or Tillamook ice cream.

(If you haven't already picked up on it, the "Warm and Fuzzy" title was a little sarcastic. This post is far from warm and fuzzy, is not about throwing rocks, but is about looking at how we live our lives from an objective point of view, and to always try to change that which is not correct.)

I read a Mother Teresa quote today that was most likely used by her in another context, but is perfectly fitting for this strand of thoughts. She said:

It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish. ~ Mother Teresa

Lisa and I then talked about the grandness of life in the U.S., or gluttony of life here for that matter, with regard to what Mother was saying. Some things that come to mind from our life:
  • We have enough clothes in our home to cover atleast 6 families, much of which is so specialized that it only sees the light of day every few years, or at the holidays.
  • I am afraid to do the math and figure out how many kids at AHOPE could be sponsored with what we spend on media/entertainment/communication in our home.
  • We waste way too much food. We either overconsume or throw out food that we let spoil so we could have something that sounded better at that moment.
  • Our kids are too spoiled, and have so many toys it is rediculous.
  • We have 3 vehicles, and as Avery talked about last week, we must have 10 bikes.
  • When ever I come home from a monthly Costco trip, I wonder during the endless procession into the house with our stuff, where is the line of stuff coming out of the house?
  • We are never truly in need of material things.

Then there are some recent things outside of our family that we talked about. And this isn't stuff that we are pointing fingers about, just triggers for our discussion. Like spending thousands on vacations, new cars, houses WAY bigger than the need for shelter and basic comfort, whether it all could be afforded or not. I told Lisa that I knew some would say, "yes, but they earned it. They worked hard for that and they deserve it."

Do we deserve it?


How do I, primarily sitting on my oversized backside, being paid way too much to do what I do, deserve more than a single mom in Addis Ababa who slaves away all day long to buy enough food for 2 of her 4 kids, meaning she will have to make a tough decision and give a couple of them up for adoption, or let them all die. Do I deserve it because I am better, more industrious, or more gifted than her? Certainly there is a component of this that is due to my efforts, but how much of it is just plain luck, or blessing that I was born here rather than there?

When I only use my block, or my street, or my town, I can possibly come to the conclusion that I deserve it. But the One who's opinion counts doesn't have such limited vision. He sees all, and in His kingdom view He would most likely agree that I DON'T DESERVE ANYTHING. It is only by His grace and mercy that my kids have not known need, ever.

We are adopting the kids God points to and says "they are yours", and we are sponsoring some kids at AHOPE. But God, do not let me or my family be comforted with doing these things while living a life of gluttony, because "we deserve it!" Open our eyes, minds and hearts God, and give us joy in the midst of learning to live a sacrificial life. Don't allow a child to die so that we may live as we wish.

Sorry to dupe you into reading this if you were looking for warm and fuzzy adoption updates about the girls. Those will come later. Today, this is as soft as it gets.