Thursday, November 30, 2006

Here I Go

After packing, unpacking to get rid of 12 pounds, repacking, getting more requests for stuff, unpacking, biting the overweight-bag-fee bullet and putting the 12 extra pounds back in as I finally repack for the final time (until I get to Portland and have to unpack one bag to get the requested items to be purchased before I catch my plane in their saved nook) I am ready to go.

Paperwork done, bags packed, roads open to the airport (after last night's freezing rain closed them) kids showering me with love and kisses and promises of missing me and taking good care of Mom, I am off to Portland tomorrow to catch an early Saturday morning flight for DC, and then on to Addis.

I am staying at the AAI guesthouse close to Layla, so I don't know if internet will happen or not. I am so ready to meet our girls. No butterflies yet, but they will surely come. God's peace to us all.


Today I got an email from another adoptive Dad. I had been hoping to hear from him for a while now, and was so excited to get his message. His daughter who recently came home from Ethiopia is one of Meklit's closest friends from her orphanage. He sent pictures of our girls together, and of Marta, and had such sweet things to say about both Meklit and Marta. Good stuff for a Dad's heart.

He also told us the best news of all. Out of the very few kids home so far from their orphanage (single digits I think), Meklit's friend lives only about 2 hours from us in Portland, so they will grow up knowing each other. What an amazing experience in so many ways this process has been.

Both of our girls have friends near by, people to make them feel like they are not alone in this world full of ferenges. And again I say...Thanks God.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks

Today we got some emails from Julie. She is in Addis, and sent some pictures of Marta.

She is so shy she will hardly let Julie take her picture, even though they are close.

When Julie told her that I would be coming for her soon, this was her response.

Thanks God.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Last weekend we went away. We drove a couple hours east of us to Tri-Cities, WA to shop, play in a hotel pool with the kids, and mostly to see dear friends who we love.

We did shop, and we can happily say that we are 100% complete in our Christmas shopping. Very nice.

We did play in the pool, and everyone had a ball. It is amazing to me that as tired as kids get from playing in water, and as soundly as they sleep, that more of us don't have pools at home. It must be worth the cost, effort and space. Hmm...

And we did see our dear friends who love us Sunday morning at The Bridge. A few years ago we spent a year (in the midst of our nomadic period) in Hermiston, OR, and drove the 1/2 hour north to attend church at the Tri-Cities Vineyard. They have since parted ways with the Vineyard (a good parting) and are associated with Streams Ministries. None of that matters to us, because we love them and they love us. And that is really all that matters.

We love going to visit them, and wish we were closer, but we are not. So we go when we can, and enjoy the feeling of home while we are there.

When I think of Pastor Tom and his church family, what is most striking and noticeable to me in the midst of worship, prayer, fellowship, prophetic stuff, the intentional focus on, desire for, and pursuit of freedom. I won't go into their details, which would be so much better coming from Tom's mouth or blog, but I will say this - walking into a place where freedom is given such value, and where safety exists to trust that you can be free and not thrown out the front door is SO refreshing. That kind of freedom, compared to stoic, safe, follow the rules of this church kind of living is like eating fresh baked bread just out of the oven, rather than last week's crusts that are ready to be fed to the pigs.

As I drove the van to the Tri-Cities, I thought about this post, and about freedom. I thought that in the world and in our selfish nature, we think that freedom is doing things our way. Living life for me, on my terms, for my gratification and enjoyment. But in the real world, in the Kingdom of our Liberator and Master, it is just the opposite. Those are the steps that lead to bondage, and slavery, and away from freedom.

Bottom line is this - if you are not free, you are in bondage! I think of the Far Side cartoon of the slave galley. There is this one emaciated slave shackled to the bench rowing away, and whistling a happy tune. The brig master is saying to his mate something like 'we just aren't getting through to this guy'. The point is that bondage can be very obvious, or it can be much more subtle. But even when it is subtle, and hard to spot, walking into a place where freedom reigns just feels so, well, free.

10, 9, 8...

In 10 days I fly out of Portland for Addis, and finally get to meet the girls who have stolen my heart. This wait has been so short, but has felt like an eternity to me. I am ready.

In 9 days we drive to Portland to stay the night, so we can avoid trying to get out of the house at 3 a.m. Saturday morning with all the kids. It would be a bad start for Lisa with tired grumpy kids, so we might as well start out with an evening in the pool.

In 8 days I work my last day before taking a week and a half off for the trip. I am ready to be away. It has been a very long year for me at work, and it is a great time to go away and be rid of thoughts of work for a little while.

In 7 days the last of Meklit's waiver paperwork will be packed, ready for our embassy appointment.

In 6 days I will be impossible to live with, or maybe I already am...

In 5 days my sister gets Meklit's waiver form signed by our OHSU Doctor, and FedExes it to me.

In 4 days I attend church for the last time without Marta physically present in our life. What will these girls who were raised in the Ethiopian Orthodox church think of our version? I want to know what they think, and I look forward to trying to see things from an Orthodox perspective. I am certain there is richness to be discovered by looking.

In 3 days I pack my 2nd bag. The first was packed a few weeks ago, and holds all of Marta's and my things for the trip. This one is just for donations, gifts for the kids at Layla and AHOPE - lots of board games, balls - tether, soccer, volleyball, and wiffle, hackey sacks, jacks, pumps and needles for the balls, hand drums, clothes, luxury items like Luna bars, lavender soap and soft for Denise, and medical supplies for AHOPE. Lisa is very skeptical about the mountain in the corner of our bedroom fitting into one very large rolling duffel, but if you suck all the air out of everything, it is amazing how dense one bag can get. After this there is just my backpack remaining. And, that evening I will watch the USC-Notre Dame game.

In 2 days we lay around and eat left overs. What will it be this year? Turkey tacos? Asian turkey soup? Maybe turkey wat? We do have some injera in the freezer, so maybe that will be it!

In 1 day we celebrate Thanksgiving. Thankfully, it will be the last without Marta and Meklit being home. We have so much to be thankful for, and will have so much more to be thankful for next year. And the next? Who knows. Well, He does.

And finally, in 17 days, Gus will no longer have to toddle around saying "Ta Ta" to the pictures that are everywhere in the house. He will have the real thing right here at home with him to love on and be loved on by. And maybe he will learn to say Marta, but personally I am hoping "Ta Ta" sticks around for a little while longer at least.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blessed are the peacemakers...

This morning when I walked into church I noticed that the US flag and the church flag (I guess that is what it is) were both brought forward from where they usually are, and were placed with prominence on either side of the worship team, front and center. I thought, "Oh yeah, Veterans Day." I am a veteran, and appreciate that I and other vets who chose to serve are recognized. I don't want a bunch of praise, but I think that sacrifice, particularly significant sacrifice such as that given by many veterans should be noted. I understand the thoughts behind the flag being highlighted, and the playing of God Bless America, but due to things I have been reading recently, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

During the past 6 months or so, as we have tried to walk down the path that God has laid out before us, my world view has changed significantly. I don't know if there is an area that hasn't been affected, if there is a way of looking at life that I don't see through a different lens than I did a year ago.

It isn't just the adoption. Much of it is about my newfound passion for Africa and its people. It is about justice, mercy, loving your neighbor, the kingdom of God. And some of what it has stirred in me is distaste for the line of thought that seems to flourish in the American church; that God has somehow thrown out His Kingdom thoughts, His ideas of love for us all, and set aside the USA as the apple of His eye. It seems as though we think that within our borders there is some special grace, mercy and favor not available to others in the world.

If that last bit ruffled your feathers, just ask yourself this question. Do you think the heart of God aches more for American lives lost on 9/11 than for the lives of thousands of children who die each and every day due to lack of food and clean drinking water? Or the lives of Iraqis and American soldiers who are being killed continuously in Iraq today?

Last night I flipped past CNN and paused long enough to have to see what was going on. The program was titled "Combat Hospital", and what captured me was that they were carrying a young girl into the ER at a military hospital (like a MASH unit I guess) in Iraq. The US medical team (Army I assume) began working hard to save her, and part of that was trying to figure out what had happened to her.

She had been shot in the head, in one ear and out the other. The lead doctor stepped back at one point and told the team the results would not be good from this case, and for everyone to essentially settle down, take things slow and careful. As I watched this little girl bleeding from her ears, thinking she will certainly die, I had to change the channel.

With a knot in my stomach I realized that if she had been shot in the US, by anyone, her story would have been all over the news, and we would hear about it for days. The fact that she was born in Iraq meant that we could care less, even if she was killed by an American bullet. I don't know who shot her, but it very well could have been one of our soldiers. Or it could have been an insurgent's bullet. Who shot her is irrelevant, it isn't the point. The point is that it broke my heart to think that she had to die. Her parents could care less where she was born, they just want their daughters to not be shot in the head.

In a chapter of The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne talks about what led him to go, and of his experience when he went to Iraq before we began bombing and invaded. These are parts of that chapter, minus much of the detail.

I began to consider what it means to pledge allegiance to Jesus and his cross.

After counting the cost of going to Iraq and the cost of not going to Iraq, I went to Baghdad in March 2003 with the Iraq Peace Team...

Essentially, I went to Iraq because I believe in a God of scandalous grace. I have pledged allegiance to a King who loved evildoers so much he died for them, teaching us that there is something worth dying for but nothing worth killing for.

Looking back now I am embarrassed at how surprised I was to find friends and family in Baghdad. It was as if I thought Iraq was filled with Osama bin Ladens and Saddam Husseins, and not with families and children just like ours.

One of the most powerful worship services I've ever experienced was just a few days before I headed home. Hundreds and hundreds of Christians from all over the Middle East had gotten together - Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox.

Afterward, I was able to meet with one of the bishops who had organized the gathering, and I explained to him that I was shocked to find so many Christians in Iraq. He looked at me, puzzled, and then gently said, "Yes, my friend, this is where it all began. This is the land of your ancestors. That is the Tigris River, and the Euphrates. Have you read about them?" I was floored - by my ignorance and by the ancient roots of my faith. It is the land of my ancestors. Christianity was not invented in America - how about that?

The bishop went on to tell me that the church in the Middle East was deeply concerned about the church in the United States. He said, "Many Americans are for this war?"

I nodded.

And he asked, "But what are the Christians saying?"

My heart sank. I tried to explain to him that many of the Christians in the US are confused and hope that this is a way God could liberate the Iraqi people.

He shook his head and said, very humbly, "But we Christians do not believe that. We believe 'blessed are the peacemakers.' We believe if you pick up the sword, you die by the sword. We believe in the cross." Tears welled up in my eyes as he said, "We will be praying for you. We will be praying for the church in the be the church."
I think that we need this prayer. I think we have been looking for too long through lenses such as conservative and charismatic, of God bless America rather than Your will be done, and we need to step back and rethink things. I think we need to speak words like those of the ER doc in Iraq - I don't think the outcome of this is going to be very good...we need to start to think of things in terms of His kingdom, without concern or regard for borders or flags. To be wholly His, our first pledge of allegiance must be to the cross of Christ, and then to other entities as this first commitment allows.

Blessed are the peacemakers...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Friend Leslie

I found out the other day that my friend Leslie Gould has a blog. Our parents have been friends since we were little, so Leslie and I grew up together. She and my sister were 3 years older than me, so really I was tolerated at best, or allowed to be the subject of their fun. They must have been somewhat kind though because I have nothing but good thoughts and memories of Leslie. My sister on the other hand is a topic for another day. Certainly I entertained her.

Leslie is also the author of books, good books. I read her first book, "Garden of Dreams" last year, and I REALLY enjoyed it. It is very real, and touching and sad, and I think a great first book. Even if she wasn't my friend I would say that, just not here on my blog.

Her second book, "Beyond The Blue" is in the stack of books on my dresser that I am currently working through. Leslie and her husband adopted a daughter from Vietnam, and this story is about adoption, though not their personal story. I haven't gotten to the point in the story yet, but she tells me my daughter Joy has a cameo in the book. It was at the editing stage while we were in China bringing Joy home, so she wrote her in. That has to be worth buying the book all by itself!

So, check out Leslie's blog, and better yet, buy some of her books. Tell her Rich sent you and you won't save a dime, but you'll still get a great book!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Supposedly It's Nice To Share




And Mine!!!!!
Oh, Lisa says it is nice to share. What ever. So ours, ours, ours, ours and ours!!!!! Thank you God, the adoptions are final and our family now belongs to these 2 precious girls, and vice versa! Our embassy appointment is Dec. 6th, so I will travel on the 2nd, and return home about a week later! I leave 4 weeks from tomorrow!!! Yaaaaahooooo!!!!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran. He came to a certain place and camped for the night since the sun had set. He took one of the stones there, set it under his head and lay down to sleep. And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground and it reached all the way to the sky; angels of God were going up and going down on it. Then God was right before him, saying, "I am God, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac..."

Last night I had a dream about meeting Marta for the first time. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a Jacob's ladder type of dream, but it was still pretty good. I don't dream much, or remember dreams much, so I take note when I do.

I was hugging her in the hall outside of a hotel room, and Lisa was hugging me from behind. My face was buried in the top of Marta's hair, and we were just holding each other, lots of happy tears and I think I got snotted on pretty good. I told Marta that I love her. That is all I needed. Great dream. Can go ahead and wake up now. But there was more.

Then we went into the room and I introduced her to 3 other kids, who we were also taking home. I don't think I knew it in the dream, but I think they were siblings. There was a girl about Marta's age, and her 2 younger brothers. I introduced Marta and the girl, and I didn't know her name, but she introduced herself to her sister as Jael...

...Jael...the "other girl" I spoke of and was looking for in the beginning of the Mary & Marta post last June...looking for her led us to our girls. God revealed her to us, and we have known about her for a couple of years, and have a picture of her, or a representation of her, on our kitchen wall with all the other kids. We pray for Jael and talk about her quite a bit around here.

You see, we believe that God still speaks to us, that He still communicates like He did throughout the bible, through many creative means. One of those being dreams. So what does this dream mean? Was it a God dream? Could be. Bad pizza? Nope, didn't eat pizza...I don't know. I just know that for the first time, she showed up in my dreams.

I also know that if there is another girl over there, with or without siblings, and God says she is for us, we will bring her home. That was decided years ago when we counted the cost and said we would follow Him.

For now, the thought of court tomorrow, going to bring Marta home, and meeting Meklit in a month is good enough for me. But who knows what dreams will become reality tomorrow?