Monday, July 26, 2010

Giving or Receiving?

Today was another very full day here in Ethiopia. We had promised all six kids that one Saturday while here in Addis we would take a day to do some shopping. For Megan, Kaylee, Jacob, and Lindsay this included finding something special for several of their close friends and for Tia and Garrett it would be a day of purchasing a few things to take home to America to help them remember Ethiopia.

We all eight piled into the van and the four oldest each had a list of close friends and a few ideas of what to get for them. They were all so excited to finally get to purchase a few things to take home to their friends and family back in the states. As we started away from the Guest Home in the van, David and I started talking about the amount of birr (Ethiopian money) that we would give to each of them and we were instructing them on using it wisely. David handed out some of the birr and we noticed that Garrett quickly placed all of his money in his pocket without even counting it. We kind of expected him to put it in his pocket quickly because we have seen him do that with the change and corkies each day. What we didn’t anticipate was what he said next. He looked up to the front of the van and in Amharic he said to our driver, ” I don’t want to spend this birr for me, I just want it for Werke.”

Werke is Garrett’s birth mom and he knows of her great need. I am sure he has seen her very hungry and not eat so that he could be fed. He has probably heard her speak of wishing she had birr to provide for her family. He himself has felt what great need his birth family has endured and he will not forget the great need that remains on the island he called home for the first four years of his life.

Our precious son had birr that was for the purpose of purchasing a few things to bring with him to America, yet he only wanted to take care of the needs of others. David and I quickly explained to Garrett that we would make sure that Werke and his siblings on the island were well taken care of. We explained that God had given us enough to share with Werke and her other children and that we knew that God was calling our family to take care of them. We assured Garrett that he could spend the birr on himself and that we would still have birr to help his birth family.

Of course another round of tears for David and I as we heard our caring son thinking of others far above himself. Our prayer is that we as Garrett’s parents can help him keep a heart of giving. That many years from now the generosity of this little boy, who knows what it feels like to have nothing, would be all grown up giving to those who find themselves with nothing. Our son is very special and we pray that God would use him as only He can to change this world.

Garrett’s actions the past two days have remind me of Acts 20:35. It truly is more of a blessing to give than receive. In your life today are you doing more giving or receiving? Are you thinking of others before yourself or making your life comfortable? There is great need around me here in Ethiopia……..I can look out my bedroom window and literally see several street boys washing shoes in order to have a meal today. They have no place to call home, no mom, no dad and my heart hurts for them. So many of you sit in your cool (I hear it is SUPER hot there) home and receive the comforts of your life……..what blessing are you missing from not giving to the least of these? I hope and pray that our precious Garrett will help change your heart and life as much as he is changing ours. A child who has had nothing knows that the words of our Heavenly Father are so true…… you believe this truth?

It is more blessed to give than to receive!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Few Coins and Bottle Tops

It has been a great few days here in Addis and I am not able to blog each day but something happened a few days ago that as a mother I will not ever forget. An action that was not meant to be seen by me but something that will forever be in my heart:

From the very first meal that we had with Tizita and Geremew it was fun to watch them with their drinks. Not only was it fun watching them sip soda for the first time but we loved watching Geremew get super excited to get to keep his bottle top. In the past several weeks each time we have soda his eyes light up as our waitress pops the “Corky” off of his bottle and hands it to him. All of us now hand our “Corkies” to Geremew when we get soda for dinner. He quickly puts them in his pocket and when we arrive back at the guest home he has a special ziplock bag where he is collecting them.

Another thing that Geremew finds neat is to have change in his pocket. I know that this is something that he has never had the opportunity to have and so every time David gets a few coins back in change he hands them to Geremew and just like his “Corkies” into his pockets the change goes. Each night it is fun to unload Geremew’s pockets to see how many bottle tops and coins he has collected during his day.

One day last week while we were out we were all piling into the van and a young guy around the age of twelve or thirteen came up to the van to beg. This happens often and we have been instructed to not give handouts out of our van (there is even a new fine for doing so if you are caught here in Addis giving to beggars from your car). It is so hard to just shake my head no and ignore the need in front of me but I always pray for the beggar and remind myself of what I am doing to help people who are in need in this city. As this young man approached our van I noticed that Geremew stood back up and started reaching for his pocket. He didn’t want anyone to notice what he was doing but he quickly emptied his pocket of all of the change and his “corkies” and gave them all to the young beggar. Only Megan and I saw this act of love and I knew that Geremew didn’t do this to be seen and so I didn’t mention that I even saw him as tears formed in my eyes.

I wrote this blog yesterday and then last night something that our family will NEVER forget happened:

After we finished dinner last night it started to rain very hard and so we quickly left the restaurant where we were eating and ran to the van. We all piled in and quickly closed the door. Our van driver Eskel started the van and pulled out into the street. Geremew very loudly shouted, “Coy! Coy! Coy!” Coy means wait and so our driver Eskel and I thought that Geremew had left something in the restaurant. Eskel stopped the van and as he did Geremew slid the window open and only then did I notice a very, very young mother with a baby on her back standing in the rain. Geremew reach his hand out of the window and placed all of the change that he had gathered yesterday in her hand. Our entire family watched in awe. I am not sure that any of us had a dry eye after watching him. To see our son and brother give ALL that he had or has ever had to a young mother in need was a lesson for each of us. The ride home was long due to a strong hailstorm and for the entire hour our family was quiet. We were all thinking about what we had just experienced. A few times David and I glanced at each other only to shake our heads in disbelief. Soon before arriving at the guest home Lindsay, Jacob and I had a brief conversation about what we had seen. They both said that they couldn’t believe that he had given all he had to someone who was in need. They both talked about how hard it is for them to give and they have always had so much more that he has ever even dreamed of having.

I am praising God for such a generous son and praying that we help him hold onto his generous spirit as he is given more in his near future.

A widows mite……………An orphans love

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tears and a lesson.....

Tonight at bedtime I climbed up onto Tia’s top bunk just like every other night, for prayers and kisses. As I got on the bunk, I noticed some blue writing on the comforter. As I noticed the writing, I remembered seeing Tia earlier today with a blue pen. I examined the writing on the comforter and it said…..Tia Hender (I don’t think she has learned to spell Henderson yet, so that is as far as she got). I knew that I must address the situation and as I saw the writing so did she. I thought that she was probably proud of herself. I am sure that there are no pens on the island where she spent her first four years and I know that at the orphanage they only had very small pencils and they were only used for schoolwork. Today she had a blue pen and she decided that writing on her bed would be a good idea during rest time. I know that this is not what she is supposed to do, however, I am not sure that she knew that she had done wrong.

Remember, it is bedtime and I have read enough to know that bedtime is not the best time to bring up poor behavior or to correct a newly adopted child, but I also knew that I had to let her know that if she planned on finishing up her Henderson during the night that this was not a good idea.

I sat on her bunk and pointed at the writing and she smiled…….I knew then that she was so proud of herself. I then very carefully said, “Tia, I am so happy that you can write your name but we are not supposed to write on our bed. We are only to write on paper.” Quickly that huge smile turned to huge tears. She didn’t want me to be disappointed in her. I quickly held her in my arms and sent Lindsay to get a translator. When the translator arrived in our room Tia explained that she didn’t want to make me sad. She said that her heart hurt because mommy didn’t want her to write on her bed. It is funny to me that I was very intentional to not let her think that I was upset with her yet she knew that she had disappointed me with her actions. In fact, it just broke my heart that I had to correct an action that she had taken.

I know that this is very common in adopted children and there is a honeymoon period where they never want to disappoint and they try to please at every moment. We have one child who we correct often and one who’s heart breaks when she thinks that we are disappointed. This made me stop and think:

Does my heart break for what breaks my Father’s heart? Can I truly say that I don’t want to make His heart sad? Am I so busy doing my own thing, in my own way and so proud of it that when He gently corrects me, my heart breaks for wanting to please Him or do I turn away and keep going on my own way?

Tia taught me a huge lesson tonight about how much God loves me and wants the best for me. I want my huge smile to turn into tears when I have done wrong (whether I knew it was wrong or not). I want to please Him and never grow out of the Honeymoon phase where pleasing Him is my life! Father, Break my heart for what breaks yours in my life……………

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Mother's Love

A Mother’s Love……….

is something that only is known by a mother and her child. The past two and a half weeks I have been able to first hand love two of my children for the very first time. I have loved them for over 19 months but only I have known of that great love.

I am going to share some pretty personal things in this blog and I want to be very sensitive to my children when sharing their story:

Many of you may or may not know that Tia and Garrett’s birth mom is still alive. Two and a half weeks ago I got the honor of spending some time with her. When she arrived at the guest home where we are staying, I held my breath as she got out of the car. How must she feel? Am I what she thought I would be? What are her thoughts towards me? My heart broke into pieces as I held her, hugged her and just cried. It was raining and we stood for minutes just holding each other, both weeping. I know my deep love for Tia and Garrett and I also know, after that encounter, of her great love for them.
We went into the guest home and sat together on the sofa. So many things I wanted to ask and yet my heart hurt for this beautiful woman who loved her children so much that she was willing to give them up so that they could survive. She started to share with us about Tia and Garret’s dad and how he died while she was pregnant with them. Soon after his death, her brother-in-law then married her (cultural way of life) and they had a set of twins. Soon after the second set of twins (who are now between two and three years old) were born, her second husband died. You could see the pain and hurt in her eyes as she spoke of this life that she had lived. A painful life of great loss; and to think that she has been widowed twice was overwhelming for me. Even more overwhelming is the fact that she had faced this all alone without a heavenly father.
As I held her hand I couldn’t begin to imagine what her life had been like. She lives on a small island in a grass hut where there is very little to eat. She has no one to protect her and her eight children. She and her children work very hard from sun up to sun down each day just to survive. She has no way to provide for her children other than to plant and harvest one type of grain annually. She builds a fire each day to not only cook on but to keep her children warm at night. (Garrett has a large burn scar on his ankle from one of these fires and everyday when I see that scar I will think of his birth mom, Werke, and the life that she lives). She and her children must walk to the lake each day to carry water up the hill to their hut for drinking and cooking. She had seen her children so hungry that she had to make a choice to give them a better life. A decision I could never begin to imagine having to make. To be honest, I am not sure if I were her that I could have ever overcome my selfishness enough to give them up yet she did because of her great love for them.
I know that Werke loves Tia and Garrett with a mother’s love that goes beyond my understanding. To see her hug them after court on June 28, 2010 was a sight that I will never ever forget. After Werke attended court with us we asked her to ride in our van to go and get Tia and Garrett from the orphanage. We had hoped to get to spend some time with her and with the twins together. When we arrived at the orphanage I wanted her to go in first to greet them and I was somewhat anxious to see what their response would be to her. As she entered both Tia and Garrett had huge smiles on their faces. Werke hugged Garrett and as she held him I said to David, “I am not sure I can do this.” I wanted to see this interaction yet the mother’s heart in me hurt like nothing I had ever experienced. My heart didn’t hurt for me, but for her. A deep hurt that is unexplainable- I cried as I watched her hold her precious children in her arms. She was whispering to them and although I don’t speak Zay I knew what she was saying. She loves them with a deep love that only a mother and her child will ever know.

More to come later on this mother’s love……….this journey is simply amazing, overwhelming and exactly what God has planned it to be.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What a week....

I had hoped to be able to blog everyday but I think I overestimated myself. I have never been a mom to six and so my time is a little more limited (and computer access even more limited) than I thought.
This week has been a week full of crazy emotions. This time last week is when Garrett fell and broke his arm. Thankfully he is healing very well and the only thing that bothers him is the itching under the cast. He will just look at me and say, "Mom, Open please!" It breaks my heart not to be able to open the cast and scratch his arm. Only a few more weeks and the cast will be gone forever and we will have no more itching!
On Monday David and I took the twins to have their health check-up and shots to allow them to travel home. They both had to have a few shots and neither of them liked that very much. In fact Garrett got sick in the van (yes, broken arm one day and throwing up 2 days later). Poor guy.....a new family, broken arm, shots, throwing up and all of this in a couple of days. Tizita had a very sore hip and leg from her shots and limped around for a day or two. They both have fully recovered and as a mom I hope and pray that our medical visits here in Addis are over!
The rest of the week has been full of playing at the guest house (, visiting with Trent and Carmen, gathering passports, and making sure our paperwork is in order for our Embassy date later this month. It has been a full week but a week that we have missed home. We really missed enjoying the Harriburg festivities on the 4th and we all long to have some time with friends. We will always be more thankful for our community after being away from it for so long.
Tomorrow David, Trent, Nicco, and our driver Eziekel will leave early in the moring to travel 3 hours south of here to Lake Ziway. They will take a 2 1/2 hour boat ride out to the island where Tia and Garrett are from. They will visit the small hut where our children were born and spend time loving on their family. Please pray for safe travel as they go. The van ride is not easy and I have heard the boat ride is even better.....There are hippo's in the lake and so it should be an adventure. David is going on a scouting trip to see if we can return with the entire family in the next couple of weeks. I pray that we can all go and see where our sweet kids are from. I know that going there will forever change all 8 of our lives as we can share in where Tia and Garrett lived their first four years. we have heard that it is one of the poorest places in all of Ethiopia. Only about 1500 people live on the island and they speak their own language. They are the Zay people and they are an unreached people group. If you know us you know that they will not remain unreached! As a family we know that we have been called to love these people with a love that they have never known. Pray that this begins tomorrow when David and Trent step off of the boat onto that island.
Looking forward to this next week knowing that each new day brings opportunity to care and love on those who need it. Thankful for all 6 precious blessings and can't believe that God chose me to get to do this.......Forever Thankful!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A broken arm and a broken heart

Yesterday morning was a morning full of fun for our family. We stayed at the guest house playing games, jumping rope, and playing ball outside until a little after lunch.After a quick nap we headed out to a very nice hotel here in Addis to use the computer connection and to let the kids play on the fun playground there. Usually David takes our two oldest up to the business center at the hotel while I head to the play are with the younger four. Yesterday for some reason (now I know why) I told David that I would take the older two so that he could enjoy time playing with the younger kids.
We had been in the business center for about 30 minutes (Chatting with several of you on Facebook) when Jacob ran in the room and said, "Mom, Hurry Geremew got very bad hurt and Dad needs you now!" I took off out the door only to realize that I had not paid for our computer time and so I had to turn back around and pay. My body was shaking and I knew that David would never send Jacob up to the business center alone unless there was a great issue unfolding.
Megan, Kaylee, Jacob and I quickly ran down the stairs and I could see David cradling Geremew in his arms like a baby. Geremew was not fully awake and so I began to panic. His eyes would just close and then his head would fall over onto David and I just felt my heart begin to break. Here I was in a very unfamiliar place with my new son and I had no idea what to do. Communication with him or anyone else around was very limited and I started to cry. I then realized that all 5 of the other kids were crying as well and I knew I had to pull myself together to get the help we needed. Kaylee and I ran out to get our van and driver as David tried to keep Geremew awake.
Our driver and Kaylee pulled up in the van and I ran in to get David and the kids only to find Megan as white as a sheet. She couldn't move and so I quickly sent David, Tizita and Kaylee off to the hospital while I tried to settle Megan. She was getting whiter and whiter with every second and when I saw her lips turn white I knew we were in trouble. Just as her lips turned white a bellhop at the hotel appeared with a wheel chair and water. He helped to comfort all of us as I simply couldn't even begin to process what was happening or what to do. He quickly moved us into some fresh air (if their is such a thing in Addis) and brought Megan a soda and some bread to eat. She started to feel a little better by the time our driver returned to get us but really didn't feel back to normal until this morning.
Our driver took us to meet David and the other kids at the hospital and the entire way I prayed and quoted scripture to myself knowing that God was in control and I knew that I must trust Him at a time like this. When we arrived at the hospital it was worse than I envisioned. Think third world hospital and then a little worse. We had been told that this by far was the best place for broken bones and so this is where we took Geremew. After an hour and a half they did an x-ray to show that Geremew had a small fracture below his elbow and a break (small bone fragment) beside his elbow. Poor little guy......a new mom, new dad, new siblings and now a broken arm. We were so thankful that our HERO Nicco was able to join us at the hospital to translate for us. The hospital employee told us that Geremew would need to remain in the hospital for two day and I literally laughed out loud. This was not funny but there was no way that we would be staying in that hospital for two days. The employee quickly changed his mind and just told us to come back on Monday. He explained that they didn't have a doctor in and the first time a doctor would be in would be Monday morning. He then gave Geremew a shot of Valium (much to David's dismay) and put a partial cast on him. Thankfully the cast doesn't cover the area where his TB test has to be checked on Monday! He then gave us a prescription for some pain medication (Tylenol) and we headed back home.
Geremew only woke up a few time last night and the night was better than I anticipated it would be. Today he has cried a few times in pain but we quickly love on him and held him and he seemed to be comforted. My heart breaks for son who doesn't fully trust us yet doesn't have any idea how my heart breaks for him. I pray that one day he will realize just how hard this is for his mommy and how I love him so! Pray for us as we face the next few days and weeks in an unfamiliar place dealing with this medical issue. We know that God has a plan and we trust that He is working that out in our family..........

Friday, July 2, 2010

First Time.......

There is a first time for everything! This week has been a week of first's for our family! For me- I am a first time mom to children from another culture, first time to appear in Ethiopian court, first time to try Kaldi's ice cream and first time to be a mom to six. Enough about me here are some firsts for our children:

Starting last Friday our precious Lindsay took her first plane ride- Half way around the world the very first time!

Megan, Kaylee, Jacob and Lindsay got to use their passports (and shots) for the first time as we traveled here to Ethiopia.

All six of our children met each other for the very first time!

We all six (prior to court) got to have 3 slumber parties in a row. All six of us in the same room for three nights prior to David and I having our own room.

Then Monday came.............

We became a family of eight in a matter of minutes and many first experiences unfolded........

We traveled to the orphanage as soon as court was over to pick up Tizita and Geremew. Little did I know how quickly these first experiences would begin. As we all piled into our minibus (very old Toyota van) Tizita and Geremew found their places very quickly beside their new sisters and brother. The van started down the dirt road in front of the orphanage and I hear a panic cry from behind me. As I turned I saw fear all over Tizita's face. She was scared to death and then I realized that this is just her second time ever being in a car. She rode in a car to the orphanage but other than that she has never been in a car, much less a minibus. I quickly moved her to my lap to settle her down. Never had I thought that a ride in a minibus for a six year old could be scary, yet this was a first experience for her. She quickly settled down and loved the ride to lunch as she held tightly to me.

We arrived at a restaurant for lunch and Tizita and Germew both experienced many new things. The first was that we were seated at a table. They didn't have a table when they lived with their family on the island and the orphanage didn't have a table and so this was their first experience sitting in a chair and eating at a table. They were both so cute and excited as they sat down and let Megan, Kaylee, Lindsay and Jacob push their chairs in. I unfolded their napkins and placed them in their laps. Tizita giggled with delight and Geremew just took it all in as he sat quietly looking at everything around (how they both experience life we have come to find out). When it was time to order we ordered tibs (Traditional Ethiopian food) for both of them and they both smiled at the thought of such good food.
While waiting for our food to arrive Tizita needed to go to the restroom and so Megan graciously said that she would take her. Megan forgot that this would be a first experience as well or I think she would have reconsidered. I handed Megan some tissue (toilet paper is not common here) and sent her off with Tizita reminding Megan that she had never used tissue paper and to help her. Megan came back laughing and as far as I know the teaching experience went well.
We allowed our kids to all get soda to celebrate this amazing day and this was another first. As Tizita and Geremew drank their Pepsi they both made funny faces from the fiz. Megan, Kaylee, Jacob and Lindsay had fun watching them. Tizita loved pouring the soda from the glass bottle to her glass as she watched it fiz. Such fun memories for our family.
After lunch we went down stairs to have some ice cream. We sat down to order the ice cream and the eight of us overwhelmed our server with our English and so she asked that we go to the counter to order. As we stood up Tizita started to cry as she said, "Mummy, I wanted chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!" (That's my girl!) She didn't understand that we were just going up to the counter to order, she thought we were leaving without receiving the promised chocolate ice cream. It was a joy to watch both Tizita and Geremew as they enjoyed every lick of their ice cream. Tizita ate the end of her cone off and so we had chocolate everywhere but it was a memory that will never be forgotten by the eight of us!
We then headed to the Ethiopian Guest Home where we are staying these six weeks in Addis. Megan and I took Tizita upstairs to give her a shower. Her very first shower. As I started the water she quickly took her clothes off and giggled the entire time. She jumped right in and started saying, "Thank you Mummy, thank you Mummy!" She must have said thank you a thousand times to me in that ten minute shower. She laughed the entire time as I cried like a baby. I was so thankful that Megan was there to help me because I was emotionally a mess thinking that our daughter was filled with such joy over taking a shower.
David gave Geremew his very first shower and I think that he enjoyed it as much as Tizita. After his shower we opened Geremews suitcase to show him his clothes. He took out the three pairs of shoes first. As he took them out he said something that our family will never forget. He picked up one pair (his favorite) and said, "Geremew". He picked up the second pair and said, "Jacob". When he picked up the flip-flops he said, " Tizita". Jacob quickly said, "No, Geremew those are all for you." Geremew's eyes got huge and he smiled the biggest smile ever as he quickly put on a pair of socks and Kaylee helped him put on his very first pair of tennis shoes. Of course more tears flowing from my eyes to see such joy.
The list of first time experiences goes on and on but even those first few hours with my new children were marked with memories that I will hold on to forever. Praising God that with each new experience they are learning of my love, our families love and more importantly the love of our Father. Trusting Him with all of the first experiences ahead for us, both the good and the bad............this journey is more than I dreamed it would be!