Saturday, July 28, 2012

Blessed in the Morning and the Mourning

My brain feels fuzzy.  Faintly I hear the horn of music begin.  Notes grow louder as I fully awaken to the loudspeaker blasting a melody from the nearby church. The neighborhood has power this morning. Songs mingle with the pitter-patter of rain on the muddy African soil.  My hand reaches for the lighted watch on the bedside table. It is 5:30 in the morning.  I wonder if I am meant to get out of my warm bed at this moment. 

Yes, I decide, there's no going back to dreamland.  My bare feet hit the hard concrete floor covered in a thin piece of carpet.  Cold toes now.  I stumble across the room and enter the hallway.  Sticking my head into the boys' room, I check to make sure they are still asleep.  Recovering the youngest with his cozy blanket, I selfishly mumble a quick prayer for an hour to myself. 

Retreating  back to my bedroom, I grab the thick, black Bible with my handwriting scrawled across multiple pages.  Attempting to be as quiet as a mouse, my legs carry me tiptoeing down the stairs. 

The Word of God is set on the table.  I head to the kitchen and pour clean water into a pot.  When it boils, I pour the expensive necessity on top of coffee grounds in the French press.  I say a prayer of thanks for this jolt of caffeine, even though it's filled with pieces of coffeebean and sludge in my mug. 

Back at the table, I open the Bible to the words memorized long ago:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.




11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Those passages from Matthew 5 cause me to ponder- what does it mean to be blessed?

Makarios.  The Greek word for "blessed" in the New Testament.  It means, "to be fortunate or happy". 

Happy. 

I will be happy when I mourn my sin.  Do I do that?

I will be happy when I am merciful to others.  Am I merciful?

I will be happy when I am a peacemaker.  Am I a peacemaker?

I will be fortunate when I am ridiculed for my faith.  When that happens, do I realize I am fortunate?

I wonder if I will ever truly understand the implications of these 9 verses. 

I move on to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount and think about how far I have come.  Thank you, Jesus. But still I have so far to go.  Never will my heart perceive all there is to know about this thick, black book.

But one day, in God's time, I will stand before His throne.  Bow, kneel, "I can only imagine".  Side by side with brothers and sisters from Ethiopia, America, Italy, Israel, and every other nation spanning this great Earth, I will lift holy hands in worship.  Then I will KNOW.

As I hear a cry descending the stairs, my mind snaps back to this present world.  The children are awake.  Waiting.  Waiting for clothes.  Waiting for breakfast.  Waiting for a hug.  Waiting for their mother. 

Fingers lovingly close the pages carried across the ocean for just such a morning as this. 

Thank you, Spirit, for speaking to me today. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rock Of Ages

The past couple weeks have been filled with special moments and memories as we work to become a family.  Milestones that are sought after when you adopt older children have come at times. For instance, one day one of the boys came to me for comfort.  He rarely does that, usually choosing to console himself, the way he's done for the last couple years.  Another son, when he gets angry or sad, withdraws and refuses to speak, listen, look, or respond in any way for an hour or two.  But, yesterday he came to me afterward and said, "Mom, I sorry". 

Then there are days like today.  2 hours straight of crying.  More than once.  By more than one son.  Pouting.  Hitting.  Ignoring.  Angry outbursts.  Yelling.

We have such a long way to go.  My boys need more than I can give them.  They need a healed heart.  They need Jesus. 

I need Jesus. 

I asked for this.  You're probably thinking that.  I asked for more children to love.  I asked for the opportunity to minister.  I asked for God to make a way to spend time in the country of my sons' birth.  He answered.  All of it.  In His time and His way, He has answered. 

I signed up for adoption.  I love adoption and I will advocate for it. 

However, I want, through the thoughts on this site, to be real.  No sugar coating.  Adoption in messy.  It's hard. 

Aren't pretty things that come out of awful things sometimes all the more beautiful because of the circumstances and trials? God says He bring beauty from ashes, and I firmly believe it.

There are times when I feel like even with these two wonderful boys, maybe we're not done with this "adoption thing".  Who knows what the Lord has in store?  If you ask Alana, she'll tell you she's advocating for another sister in the future. 

Other times I listen to the ruckus of boys fighting, hitting, and running through a concrete house with no insulation screaming and I think, "Really?  Are you kidding me?" 

That's just the real deal. 

I love each of my 5 children. God opened my heart in a way I never dreamed possible to love and fight for each of my children, whether born of my womb or born of my heart. 

When I feel like I don't have what it takes to wage war for 5 little souls, I drop to my knees and cry out to God.  He can do it.  He brings to mind the old hymn, Rock Of Ages.  It goes,

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.


Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.


While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee." [4]


The words, "Nothing in my hand to bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling," have become what I am singing to the Father on a daily basis.  I have absolutely nothing to offer my children without Him.  Sometimes it's all I can do to cling to His promises.

Real.  Real people.  Real emotions.  Real testing and trying and crying.  Real serving.  Real patience.  Real tenderness and sharing and most of all, real love.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Today I am thankful for:  batteries for the first new toys my new sons have ever picked out in their lives, granola bars, and spending time with other adoptive families here for their children.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Help Us Build!

Everyone knows we came to Ethiopia to adopt.  But most of you also know that we came here to minister as well.  One of the main ministries we are working with is Bring Love In, which you realize, if you have read this blog at all, has a mission that is dear to our hearts.  If you are just reading about Bring Love In for the first time, click here to learn about their work. www.bringlove.in.

Last week, Natalie and I and the children began organizing Bring Love In's donation room.  This room is the size of a closet and has shelving.  It will hold supplies that will be available to the mothers in charge of Bring Love In's homes.  
 The shelves are full of items like clothing, toiletries,  diapers, formula, bedding, and toys.


In an earlier post I told you about Setota, Bring Love In's first child placed in a home with a mother to love her and take care of her.  Just a few days ago, another 13 children arrived!  These children have been split between two homes.  So Bring Love In now has two full homes.  Here are the beautiful children that now have a family!


When we spoke to Thomas from Bring Love In this week, he informed us that there are already 6 more children coming soon to complete the 3rd home.  Isn't that great?

The office at Bring Love In has a room outside in the back that houses extra donations that they don't have room for inside.  Right now all items are in boxes packed into that tiny room.  We can't even see what's in there to be able to tell you what they still need.  Alan and I would love to have shelves made for that room so it can be organized like the small inside donation room.  Then we'd love to organize it for them before we go back to America. 

It will cost over $600 in American money to accomplish this task.  There's no IKEA here.  You don't just run out and purchase shelving units.  We have to have them custom made for the room out of wood.  They would be sturdy and hold many future donation items and would certainly be a blessing to the ministry. 

We're asking for help!  For the next week we will be taking donations for Bring Love In through the Paypal link on our blog on the left hand side that says, "Donate to Bring Love In".  Click on the button displaying, "Donate". They money raised will go to Bring Love In.  Please consider donating. Many of you have given much already in the way of donations that have been delivered to orphanges and Bring Love In.  However, there is still much to be done.   

"And he said to them, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."  And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me." (Mark 9:35-37)

Our First Week

This past week was full of blessings.  At the same time, I really miss Alan and had a hard time with the fact that he was not here for the boys' first week with our family.  The good news is he has a return date!  He and Jayde will be picked up the at the airport here in Addis on Sunday morning, the 29th.  I am so excited!  Alan's parents are coming for a visit as well.  We have a lot planned for their stay. 

I was able to retire this necklace that I have worn for the last year.  It says, "Waiting (im)patiently".  Goodbye, wait!  Hello, family of 7!  I'll show you my new necklace when Jayde and Alan bring it from home.
God answered a prayer for me this week- a friend for Alana!  Alana has missed her friends very much since we have been here.  I prayed for a friend for her, and God provided Kayla.  Kayla is the daughter of the pastor (Eric) of the church we are attending, and she came over to play this week.  They had a great time!

Kayla's brother, Aaron, came over, too, and the boys had fun shooting the Nerf guns. 


Paulos loves his light-up tennis shoes so much he wears them all the time, even with pajamas, until I make him take them off to go to bed. 

Yohannes thought it was so funny the first day he saw me exercise in the morning.  Now, he runs to put on his shoes and show me his tricks, like this backbend.  No, I do not do backbends.  He also likes to show me his pushups and crunches. 

The boys love their backpacks and wear them everywhere, filled with the things that belong to them, like books and jackets. 
Some of the boys that live near us gather in the pasture in front of our house frequently.  They have learned my boys' names.  Here they are showing us how they snap the whip they use to move cattle.


Easton tried, but just could not make the loud noise that the whip is supposed to make.  He needs more practice.

Yohannes took the whip and snapped it right away, just right! 
We had to go to the America World Adoption Agency office to pick something up this week. When we arrived, one of the workers gave Paulos this hat, scarf, and these glasses.  He was first in his class at school this semester, so he was rewarded.  He walks around with them saying, "Ee- tee- oh- pee- ah".  All the nannies informed me that he is "so smart" and they think he will be a scientist when he grows up.

Yohannes received a t-shirt with the Ethiopian alphabet for finishing his studies at the transition home.



I am thankful for: new friendships, soccer balls, and peanuts for a boy who doesn't like to eat. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I'm On My Knees Begging, Won't You Read It?

Today I am not going to bore you with my words.  I am going to send you to someone else's words who is much more eloquent than I, and BEG you to read them.  Won't you please take a few minutes to click and read today?  It might change someone's life.  Maybe yours. 

Read this first (I know many of my friends have already read this one, but many more have not).  She says it better than I ever could.  The country may be different but the poverty and spirit is not.
http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/07/the-1-thing-you-really-have-to-know-about-your-family/

When you have finished that one, please read this follow-up.  It only takes a minute.  What's a minute in a life-changing scenario?
http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/07/10-real-way-you-could-really-be-the-change-in-the-world/

It's real.  Please understand.  Please don't look the other way.  Do something.  Give something.  Anything. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Moses, the Shepherd

I have had a hard time sleeping.  The first week Alan was gone I did not have problems, but since then insomnia has been a nightly occurrence.  Having the boys only here two nights is a little like having  new born, in the fact that I keep checking on them during the night.  Remember that from your little ones? 

This morning, since I was awake anyway, I went ahead and got started reading.  I opened my Bible to Exodus and began reading about the Moses and the burning bush.

I realized that I could actually picture it in my mind clearly now. 

Has that happened to you?  You read about something, like a place, and then once you actually experience that place or something similar, it becomes real to you?  I would imagine that for those of you who've walked through parts of Israel where Jesus walked, that would be true.  I have not had the opportunity to do that yet.  Maybe someday.

But for now, details like this come alive.  "Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God."  (Ex. 3:1)  Chapters 3 and 4 go on to describe Moses' meeting with God. 

It occurred to me that never before have I really pictured this meeting in my mind in vivid detail.  But after seeing the landscape on this side of the world, I picture the bush as a bush common here in Africa.  When I picture Moses as a shepherd, I see the shepherd people leading their flocks here with sticks or whips from pasture  to pasture. 

And the Bible becomes more alive. 

I realize that the areas talked about in Exodus would be the modern day Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, but when you look at a map, Ethiopia's not that far away! 

It's really cool, ya'll. 

Today I am thankful for:  a God who makes all things new, light-up tennis shoes for little boys, and balloons.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The First Day

It was surreal to have the boys here last night sleeping in the next room.  I found out late in the afternoon (about 4:00 p.m. here) that I could take custody of them. So Alana, Easton, and I had them change their clothes at the Transition Home, say goodbye to their friends and nannies, and we busted out of that joint!

Here they are in their new duds:

We had dinner together last night, which for Paulos, consisted of bread only.  He refused to try the soup, veggies, or fruit.  Yohannes tried it and did okay.

Then everyone had a bath and put on pajamas.  This was a new experience for the boys.  At the transition home they just sleep in the same clothes for a couple days.  I popped popcorn and we watched a movie, then all headed for bed.  They slept all night in bed, which was great.  I didn't sleep well, I kept getting up to check on them, but they were fine.

So far I have learned that:

1)  Paulos does not like to try new foods.  However, this morning I made pancakes with syrup and he ate it.  Lunch today was refused.  White bread only again.

2)  Yohannes gets a bad headache every time we ride in the car.  Hoping that when we are out of the smog and traffic in America he'll feel better about being a passenger.

3) Paulos does not like to get a bath.  He whimpered the whole time.   

4)  Paulos has a wonderful laugh.  It makes you smile to listen to it.

5) Yohannes likes to draw.  I see the purchase of many sketchbooks in our future. 

6) Yohannes is going to be a boy that will have to have limits on technology (like one of his big sisters).  He would sit for hours and play on the I-pad if I would let him.

7) Yohannes is very concerned about his younger brother and wants him to always do the right thing. 

8) Both boys think rubber boots are very funny and difficult to play soccer in.

9) Neither boy likes ice cream.  We'll have to work on that one!

10) The future will hold: tantrums from our youngest son, many more messes to clean up, but a whole lot of love and fun.
"Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds[b] ;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families..." (Psalm 68:4-6a)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Journey To Our Boys Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyvahPJluY0&feature=player_embedded

Introducing......Yohannes and Paulos

WE PASSED COURT TODAY, JULY 16, 2012!!!!!!!

We would like to introduce you to Yohannes Corban Kicklighter and Paulos Mason Kicklighter!

  This was our referral picture, the first one we ever saw of our sons. 

Yohannes is 10 years old.  His birthday is October 10.  He loves to play soccer.  We chose "Corban" for his American middle name, which means "a gift offered to God".  Our prayer for Yohannes is that his life will be a gift and that God will use him to bring glory to Him.

Paulos is 5 years old and his birthday is August 2.  We will be able to give him his first birthday party (neither boy has ever celebrated a birthday) in just a couple weeks.  He loves to play with blocks and puzzles. His middle name, "Mason", means "foundation builder".  We pray he will someday build foundations of his family and in his walk with Christ.  He was also named after a couple that was foundational in our lives, Don and JoAnn Mason. 

Both boys want to remain being called by their Ethiopian names, but they both love their middle names, too, and practice saying their full names every day.

This was our first picture as a family:
We're overjoyed to be able to share their faces with you at last! Praise God!!

Grace

Have you seen this acronym for Grace?

God's
Riches
At
Christ's
Expense

"Grace is God's unmerited favor. It is kindness from God we don't deserve. There is nothing we have done, nor can ever do to earn this favor. It is a gift from God."

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The power has been out a lot the last couple days.  It was on just long enough at church this morning to sing one song, then went out again.  That song was, "Your Grace Is Enough".

Jesus did that for me, I believe.  I needed to sing those words this morning. 

I needed to hear that even though Alan's not here, Jesus is enough. 

Even though my family and friends are not near, Jesus is enough.

Even though our boys are still living in a transition home instead of with their mom and dad, Jesus is enough. 

Here is the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtnE_e1LylY

and these are the lyrics, by Chris Tomlin:

"Great is Your faithfulness oh God
You wrestle with the sinner's heart
You lead us by still waters in to mercy
And nothing can keep us apart

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Great is Your love and justice God of Jacob
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me [x2]

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Your grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I see your grace is enough
I'm covered in your love
Your grace is enough for me
For me"

God does, in fact, use the weak to lead the strong.  He has throughout all history. 

His grace is enough for me.

At the end of our church service today, all the adults stood up (there are more children than adults in the church!), made a circle, and prayed for unity, for salvation of the local people, and for the church.  As I stood there with 21 other men and women, I listened to 3 men pray.  One was from America, one was from Australia, and one was from Ethiopia.  Each spoke with a different accent.  But each prayed for their brothers and sisters in Christ.  The body of Christ is the Church Universal.  It spans oceans and continents.  We are family.  I may have been holding the hand of 2 local Ethiopians, one whom I had met before, and one whom I had never met before, but they were my sisters in Christ.  It was beautiful.  We were there because of grace.

Today I am thankful for: a notepad and pen, a mother-in-law who is taking charge of sending requests for things we want back to Ethiopia with her son, and a God who stirs my heart and understands my longings. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Time Flies

It's been almost a month and a half since I have:

1) Driven a vehicle

2) Collected eggs

3) Dusted

4) Watched T.V.

5) Purchased an item of clothing

6) Pulled a weed

7) Wrapped a present

8) Written a letter or card

9) Baked brownies

10) Asked my children to do chores

11) Worn shoes with a non-flat heel

12) Walked on the grass in my bare feet

13) Hosted a gathering/party

14) Hugged my parents

15) Used a hairdryer

16) Tasted blueberries, corn, or pickles

17) Had a glass of wine with a friend

18) Put my hand on my pregnant niece's belly

19) Texted my sister

20) Danced with my husband

21) Sung a praise song with my EPC family

22) Watched the stars

23) Sat on a porch swing or rocking chair

24) Watched my children run through the sprinkler

25) Fed or petted a dog

26) Had fresh flowers on my table

27) Printed anything off the computer

28) Closed any blinds or seen a window screen

29) Ridden a 4-wheeler or golf cart through the pasture

30)  Eaten fast food


I'm glad that:

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:


2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

 9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-10)

Today I am thankful for: hot raspberry tea, a Facebook message from a friend at home, and knowing that a certain sweet boy who we've grown to love here, "B", has found a home with my friend, Tausha. 
*If you'd like to help Tausha's family get "B" home with his brother, please click here to read their story and donate $1.  http://krohnjourney.blogspot.com/2012/07/double-blessing-krohn-family-of-seven.html?spref=fb

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Let's Talk About Food

I like food. 
I like to cook it.
I like to grow it.
I like to preserve it.
I like to read about it.
I like to eat it. 

I can, like any Southern country girl, put away some fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried okra, and biscuits (Fred's Market, anyone in Plant City?).  Thankfully for my health, though, those items are much more rare on my menu than choices like grilled chicken, baked potatoes, green beans, and whole wheat bread. 

Then you have cheese.  And bacon.  Two food items, which, in my opinion, are in a class by themselves.  Put them on top of french fries and you have the world's most perfect menu item.  Okay, not perfect in terms of good-for-you, but perfect in terms of taste.  O'Briens (a restaurant in my hometown) calls my name frequently to come and partake of their loaded cheese fries. Dude- looking at this picture makes my mouth water!

My weight has yo-yo'd in the past, which is typical of many women I know.  Down a few pounds, up a few pounds, and the cycle keeps going.  I know what to do to be at my healthiest weight, and I enjoy doing it. I just have to actually DO IT. I feel good when I am working out, running, and eating a clean diet 80% of the time.  When I slack in those areas, it takes a toll on my body as well as my mind and disposition. 

Jogging outside and weight-lifting inside are two activities that top my list of enjoyments. 

This time last year I was in my groove, working out and eating good.  When I do what I know I should, I can splurge on the occasional O'Briens cheese fries platter with no guilt and no extra pounds.  But that stopped in October.  Alan and I ran in a half-marathon relay at the beginning of the month, then I got sick.  A virus settled in my lungs and I began coughing.  It was hard to breathe.   Carrying on a normal conversation was difficult.  By Christmas, I was sure there was something majorly wrong with me.  I went to my doctor a couple times, but nothing helped.  Finally, in the beginning of January, I saw a different doctor who prescribed just what I needed.  Within two weeks, my lungs were clear.  I was overjoyed!  But, by that time (it had been 2 and a half months), I was out of sync as far as working out was concerned.  I hadn't been able to sing in the choir well, much less jog or ride a bike.  Then I let life get in the way. 

*Have you ever done that?*

Have you let what's going on in your life be an excuse for not taking care of yourself? 

I didn't start working out again.  I started eating.  And eating some more.  When we began to plan to come here to Ethiopia, I used that as a great excuse to binge on junk.  I said things like this to myself, "I'm going to go to Ethiopia for 3-4 months, I need to eat as many cheeseburgers and fries as possible before I leave."  Yeah, that's right, Five Guys became a friend and, since I knew dairy products would be hard to come by here, cheese became a staple to top every dish.  I felt horrible.  Is it any wonder?  

I know better.  I am an advocate of books like, What The Bible Says About Healthy Living.  My family drinks raw milk. I buy exclusively whole wheat pasta and brown rice, and make homemade whole wheat bread and muffins when I have time.  Our family raises grass fed beef and free range eggs.  We grow our own vegetables.  One of our family motto's is, "The whiter the bread, the faster you're dead." 

Excuses. 

Well, no more, not here!  Living in a third world country has been great in a lot of ways, and one of those ways has been the effect on my body.  Walking a lot is good, working out with Natalie has been a blessing, and the food is mostly clean.  By that I mean lots of fruits, veggies, and lean meat. 

For example, yesterday my diet consisted of:
Breakfast-  fruit, nuts, and coffee (no sugar).
Lunch and dinner-  lean ground beef (the beef here reminds me of venison back home), potatoes, carrots, avocado, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, hot peppers, fresh herbs, mango, banana, and oranges. 
My snack was popcorn, popped on the propane stove with a little sunflower oil and salt. 

See what I mean?  No, not every single meal is like that.  Any time there's pasta, it's white pasta, any time there's bread, it's white bread, and any time there's rice, it's white rice.  My children will have to be re-trained once we arrive home in adherence to the family motto.

The majority of what we eat is healthy, though.  I have lost weight, my pants are baggy, I'm more toned, and I feel so much better.  I'm getting rid of the weight I put on over the last 5 months while making so many excuses.  Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to going home and visiting O'Briens.  But I'm also looking forward to going home and using my new lung capacity to get back to my running regimen. 

The altitude took a lot of getting used to.  The first week we were here, I couldn't even walk up the stairs without being breathless.  Now, I can work up a sweat like normal at home.  I hope that means running will be easier when I get back to the Florida landscape, on flat terrain at sea level. 

So, that's my confession for this week. 

Did you know that in Ethiopia:
-milk comes in a small plastic bag with about 2 cups inside?
-eggs are just like at my house, so it's nothing different, covered in dirt and chicken poop
-we wash all fruits and veggies in purified water with vinegar to kill germs before we eat them
-we brush our teeth with purified drinking water and keep our mouth closed during showers so no yucky water gets swallowed
-all dishes must be dried be hand before re-using because they are washed in non-purified water 3 times a day
-we make coffee in a French press because there's no automatic coffee maker, so it comes complete with grounds and a little sludge in the bottom
-there's no pork


Today I am thankful for:  Behilu-who helps me when I can't communicate, my pencil sharpener, and oranges that remind me of Florida.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

To Do Or Not To Do? That Is The Question

Culturally, there are some differences in practices that are acceptable in Ethiopia versus the  good ol' U.S.A. 

So far, I've learned that in Ethiopia, it IS okay to:

1) Pick your nose in public.  Yes, it's true.  Everybody does it.  In my last post, I made a statement about not picking my nose in front of the housekeeper.  But, I bet she'd be perfectly okay with it.  I'm the one that just can't do it while being watched.

2)  Relieve yourself in a public place.  Men and children urinate everywhere here.  I do mean everywhere.  Anywhere is acceptable.  Busy roadways, ditches, pastures, puddles, you name it, I bet someone has peed in it.  Now, I have not seen women doing it.  But if you are male or under the age of 16, it's perfectly fine.  I'm not even going to mention the other bodily function I've seen plenty in the pasture in front of our house.  Avert your eyes, kiddos. 

3)  Litter.  I have no idea why, but there is trash everywhere.  If children here open a piece of gum, the trash immediately gets thrown on the ground.  Adults, too. Everything from old shoes to packaging to any other trash you can think of is strewn wherever you look.  It has taken us a month to get our boys used to the idea of finding the garbage can at the transition home and throwing away the trash from the treats we bring them.

4) Put any toilet paper you use into the garbage, not the toilet.  The sewer system is so bad, it won't support throwing too much paper in, so if you actually use toilet paper (which is not available in the majority of bathrooms in public places, by the way, so bring your own in your purse, - oh, that is if the restroom has an actual toilet, a rare find) the people raised here throw it in the trash can. 

5) Beg for anything.  Anytime.  Any place.  If you will give it, people will take it. 

6) Walk down the street with your arm around your friend.  Like, as in, men walking with their male friends arm in arm or holding hands.  If you saw that in the U.S., what would your first thought be?  That's right.  Uh-huh. But here, it's a sign of friendship or "brotherhood" to walk with your arm around your friend of the same sex or holding hands with them.  Somehow I can't see Alan participating in this cultural phenomenon.

7) Take your children to a restaurant.  Yes, I know of many kid-friendly restaurants in America.  But, I also know that many are not okay with hosting children.  Lots of workers in restaurants don't like to see children coming, and a fair share of patrons would like to dine without seeing a child at the next table.  However, in Addis, restaurant workers and owners love children!  They will talk to them, offer to hold them, console them, clean up after them, and play with them.  Other families with kids have had their children come up to our table and shake our hands and tell us "Selamno (hello)".  The people are just plain friendly.  I thought we Southerners were known for our smiles and "howdy"s, but we have nothing on Ethiopians.

However, it is NOT okay to:

1) Show your shoulders or knees.  Hey, Florida peeps, guess what?  No shorts!  No tank tops!  Yup, that's right.  Even though it's very hot here almost all year, it is considered rude to show your knees or shoulders, unless you're a soccer player or working out in the gym.  I brought two tank tops, which I usually wear with a jacket over them, and a pair of shorts, which I never wear unless I'm around the house.  Who knew?  Our driver thought Alan was strange for his tendency to wear khaki shorts on a daily basis.

2) Drive out of the city at night.  Want to make your driver freak out here?  Mention the possibility of going anywhere at night that's not in downtown Addis.  Even in downtown Addis, they drive as little as possible at night.  Why?  There are bandits (yes, that's right, thieves) that will set up roadblocks in the dark and when you stop the car they rob you.  It's apparently very prevalent.  So you better time your outings correctly.

3) Throw away glass bottles.  When you purchase a drink in a bottle, whether it's coke or beer or anything else, you must return that bottle to the place you purchased the drink.  If not, they will ask about it.  If you break it, you better pay for it.  The bottles are sent to a center to be cleaned and refilled.  There may be piles of litter everywhere, but you can bet those piles do not include glass bottles.

4) Use an exorbitant amount of paper products.  What a change from American living!  At home, we already use cloth napkins most of the time and have old cleaning rags.  But, here, they are virtually nonexistent, except for the occasional paper napkin and roll of toilet paper.  All cleaning is done with rags.  Nothing disposable.  No trash bags.  No paper towels.  At many restaurants, napkins are only available upon request.  Those of you that own stock in Proctor & Gamble would be sorely disappointed. 

There you have it, folks.  I'm sure the longer I'm here, the longer the list will grow.  Isn't this information you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask? 

Today I am thankful for:  my small dry erase board, avocados, antibiotic cream, and seeing pictures of my soon-to-be-here niece's nursery (thanks, Matt and Courtney!).


Singing In Your Underwear And Other Things Not To Do In Front Of The Housekeeper

When we arrived in Ethiopia, one of the things I was nervous about was living in a house with a cook and housekeeper.  At home, I am a meal planner, shopper, and there are lots of chores to be done on our farm.  I don't mind housework, for the most part.  (Except ironing. I despise ironing. Now you know why my children's clothes are always wrinkled.) Even if I could afford to have someone come in and clean my house for me, I wouldn't pay to have that done.  It's my house, and I want to clean it.  It's my family, and I want to cook for them.  That's pretty much my attitude at home. 

Yes, it's weird to have two people here in the house with us during the day.  The housekeeper comes in the morning and leaves in the late afternoon.  The cook comes and prepares lunch and supper Monday through Friday.  In Ethiopia, lunch is the main meal of the day, and supper is small.  It's backwards from how most of America operates.  Each day I am very relieved when the two women leave for the day and we have the house to ourselves.  I'll admit it. 

At first, I declared that if I lived here I would not have a housekeeper or cook.  I figured, if I am perfectly capable of doing those things myself, why in the world would I hire someone else to do them?  To do my jobs? 

Then, I actually learned about the culture and talked to people who live here about hiring employees.  I had to take a step back and examine my self-righteousness.  I was too quick to jump to conclusions. 

What I learned was that here, if you are at all considered middle class, or even upper-lower class, if you can possibly scrounge up a few extra birr a week, you hire help.  There are so few jobs here for so many people that everyone pitches in and tries to employ someone, if you are able.  We, as white foreigners, are looked at as being very wealthy.  And we are.  Compared to 99% of the population here, we are rich.  If we were to live here and NOT employee people, we would be looked at as selfish and snobby.  To be seen as contributing our part to the economy, we would have to hire a housekeeper and cook.  (The ones I am currently speaking of came with the house rental, we didn't personally hire them.)

But it's still a weird feeling.  There are things you just can't do around the housekeeper and cook.  Here are a few:

1) Pick your nose. 
2) Walk around the house with no bra.
3) Leave the door open when you go to the bathroom.
4) Sneak cookies from the kitchen between meals.
5) Sing along with your music at the top of your lungs.
6) Throw away leftovers you didn't like. (They take out the trash!)
7) Leave clothes on the floor, a chair, or really any place other than the closet, because they assume anything not in the closet needs to be washed, so they take it.  We didn't bring many clothes, people.
8) Raise your voice at your children (oh, yeah, good accountability there).

I have no idea what they are saying to each other.  At times I fully believe they are saying things like,
1) Look at that woman on her computer again.  She never works.
2) Look at that woman on her Kindle again.  She never works.
3) Look at that woman doing ________ (you fill it in).  She never works.

And, all the while, I am looking forward to each weekend, when I can cook in the kitchen myself and wash dishes!  (I know, Mom and Ginger, you think I'm crazy, right?)

Seriously, though, our housekeeper and cook are very nice, and the food is good.  I have to watch out that I don't eat too much and override the workouts that Natalie's putting me through.  Sometimes I don't succeed.  Like two nights ago. I was thinking about missing Alan and wallowing in self-pity, just long enough to consume extra helpings of dinner.  Oh well, moving on.  Today is a new day.

So, when you hear we have a housekeeper and cook, and you say, "I don't feel sorry for you one bit", just remember that you may be able to walk from your bathroom to bedroom in your underwear, singing the theme song from, "Footloose", but I can't. 

Speaking of dancing and just for fun, here's a link to Natalie's latest post, which includes embarrassing pictures of us with the cool homemade weights Alan made.  Enjoy yourselves at my expense.  It's alright.  I can handle it. :) 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Plans? Ha!

"We can make our own plans,
but the Lord gives the right answer.

  2 People may be pure in their own eyes,
but the Lord examines their motives.

3 Commit your actions to the Lord,
and your plans will succeed.

4 The Lord has made everything for his own purposes,
even the wicked for a day of disaster.

5 The Lord detests the proud;
they will surely be punished.

6 Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin.
By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil.

7 When people’s lives please the Lord,
even their enemies are at peace with them.

8 Better to have little, with godliness,
than to be rich and dishonest.

9 We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps". (-Proverbs 16:1-9, NLT, emphasis mine)

I tend to try to be a planner.  Now, I say, "try" because I am not the biggest planner I know, but I like to know what's going to happen.  Having a plan makes my life go smoother, or so I tell myself.  Can I get an "Amen"?  Any Type A personalities out there?

Last night I couldn't sleep.  Finally at 5-something this morning I decided to get out of bed.  Checking my email, I found one stating MOWCYA does not plan to be able to write our approval letter until Monday, the 16th. 

Um, I kind of had other plans.  Like, going to pick up my boys this week! 

In the grand scheme of things, will one week make a difference?  No.  Definitely not.  So we'll just keep plugging along here and wait.  I'm getting pretty good at that.  Sometimes.  I just have to be ready to submit. 

Submit to His timing.  His plans.  It's easier when I focus on what I KNOW about God's plans for me.  Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."  God has given me a future and a hope, and he'll do the same for my children. 

Have you seen or read the Love Comes Softly series?  I read them years ago, thanks to Glenda Geiger, and now own the movies.  Those movies traveled here in my suitcase, and Alana, Easton, and I have been watching them at night before we go to bed.  The second one, called Loves Enduring Promise, talks about the promise God made to us.  This is the future and hope I am looking forward to most, this promise: "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Rev. 21:4)  It gives me goosebumps to think about the glory that awaits me in the future.

It comes down to trust. Do I trust God?  Do I trust that He has my best in mind?  Do I trust Him to fulfill His promises?  Do I trust Him enough to let go of my own plans and submit to His? 

Sometimes you have to let go of your own desires and pray that your desires would be His desires.  Does that make sense?  When He talks about giving us the desires of our hearts, don't you know that He does that when we submit everything to Him, and say, "My desires are your desires"?  If I totally confused you, I'm sorry. 

I trust Him. There is a season for everything, and only God knows when each season is going to come. 

Today I am thankful for:  electricity that has stayed on for the most part the last two days, the French press here at the house to make coffee, and a fellow AWAA mom who brought me taco seasoning from the States! (Mexican night will be happening here on Saturday, minus the cheese, - whoo-hoo!)

Missing the Other Half of My Heart

I am missing my husband something fierce tonight.  And Jayde, too.  Ugh!

I came across two pieces of paper from Father's day in the back of my Bible a little while ago.  Alana and Easton wrote a card with a word that described their dad and had to share it during church at Bethel.  Easton wrote, "Hardworking", and Alana wrote, "Kind".  She expounded on that word by sharing, "My dad is kind because he does what the good Lord wants and that includes helping others." 

Genesis 2:24 says, " a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh".  I guess that's why I'm missing him?  He's my other half?  The longest we have been apart before now in our married lives is 5 days.  5 days in over 15 years. 

I want my family of 7 under one roof.  I don't mean to complain.  Especially when there's the potential for that to happen in the next couple  months.  I have friends, 3 in particular, who have become widows in recent years.  We have lost friends and mentors who have gone home to be with the Lord.  I will be able to see my husband in the next few weeks, God willing.  Why, then, is it so hard to be positive tonight? 

The joy of the Lord is my strength.  The joy of the Lord is my strength.  The joy of the Lord is my strength. 

I will keep repeating this, even when I don't "feel" the joy. 

Today I am thankful for:  bed partners in Alana and Easton (to help ward off loneliness), schoolwork to fill monotonous days (it's hard to work at any missions when you don't have someone to help with the kids), and Narnia books to read aloud to my children on Kindle.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Your Speech: Helpful or Hurtful? Thankful?

Once again, the predominate theme God is teaching me through this out-of-my-comfort-zone experience comes down to Thanksgiving.  Over and over, this word has appeared through God's Word, books, videos, blogs, friends, and a multitude of other ways.  If the crimson thread running through the Old and New Testament is Jesus' sacrifice, the thread running right beside it is Thankfulness. 

Yesterday at Bethel, we studied from Chapter 4 of Colossians.  "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison- that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.   Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."(Col. 4:2-6)

Right in verse 2, "thanksgiving" smacked me in the face once again.  I thought I was thankful for what I had at home.  Was I really, though?  You see, when I was younger, my sin of choice (everybody has a main one of those, whether you admit it or not) was coveting.  Not open, in-your-face jealousy, but a more subtle coveting.  The kind that makes you think, "If I had  ____, I'd be happy.  If I was able to do  _____, I'd be happy."  Enter whatever you want in the blanks.  Bigger house, nicer clothes, better vacations, just know it all revolved around STUFF.  Now, in more recent years, I have been convicted of this and managed to put it aside most of the time.  But, every once in a while, coveting reared it's ugly head again.  And I thought I was thankful for what I had.  But, was I, really?  I mean, really, truly thankful? 

Did I have the kind of thankfulness that strips you to the core when you realize that you are NOTHING apart from Jesus, that you can do nothing, control nothing on your own, never be good enough?  Works?  Ha.  You can never be good enough, never do enough "good" stuff to get into Heaven.  Works that are the result of thankfulness for what Christ has done for you are the only true "good" works.  Martin Luther said, "God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us."

I have so much stuff.  I have so many blessings.  God has given me opportunities to share with and bless others, and have I really, truly done that?  Sure, sometimes I have.  But other times I know I should be blessing, and all I come up with are excuses. 

As I was hugging Alan and Jayde goodbye to watch them fly back to the other side of the world, literally, I was praying prayers of thankfulness.  You see, what I wanted more than anything else in this life besides Jesus was  to be a wife and mom.  God granted my request.  So I thanked Him for them.  If for some reason I never saw them again, I was so thankful for each and every day spent with them.  All the time God gave me.  How have I spent that time?  That's further on in the verses in Colossians.  Have I made the most of it?  No, not always.  And that's another conviction I am taking back to America. 

Each of us is given a numbered amount of days on this earth. The only one who knows that exact number is God.  Have I been "making the most of the time", like Paul talks about?  Do I make the most of my time with my family?   Do I make the most of my time with strangers?  Do I make the most of my time spent serving others?  I hope when I go home I will be more intentional about my time. 

At the end of those verses in Colossians Paul talks about our speech.  Luke 6:45b says, "..for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."  Pastor Eric said, "Speech reflects who we are."  He listed 3 ways our speech should reflect our changed heart in Christ. 

1)  In our prayer life: All the events in our life should cause us to go to prayer, when something good happens, and when something bad happens.  We should have a speech and attitude of thanksgiving and prayer that persists and does not give up.  God sees the big picture, so we can praise Him in all things, good and bad.

2) In our proclaiming/preaching/teaching the gospel:  Ask God for opportunities ("open door"s) to bless others, then stop using excuses not to do it.  Are you using your speech to reflect Jesus, or to talk about yourself all the time?  God-focused, or self-focused?  (Dude, I don't know about you, but I need that reminder a lot).  Soli Deo Gloria = For God's Glory Alone.  Do we have an attitude that reflects God only when it's convenient or good?  In easy times?  Or at all times?

3) Our speech should have a consistent life to go with it:  How do you have wise speech?  Through the Word of God.  The Truth.  That's it.  Not listening to CNBC or Fox News or anywhere else you like to get your information.  That may make you up to date on Presidential candidates, it may make you knowledgeable, but it won't make you wise.  There's a big difference. 

Your speech should restore, make right, heal, and give answers.  Never put down, make fun of, or be crude.  Is your speech full of grace? 

Eric explained that if you don't know Christ and you try to control your speech in order to please God, it's totally backwards.  You have to know Christ first, saturate yourself in His Truth, then your speech will reflect that. 

You know that old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?"  It's a big, fat LIE.  Words have the power to heal and the power to hurt.  Want an exercise that will humble you?  Do what I did last year, take out a notebook, go through the book of Proverbs, and list all the verses that have to do with your speech.  Ugh!  It's a punch in the gut, but a good one.  Put the list in front of you if you need to or carry it in your pocket.  The more you meditate on it, the more your speech will start to change.  There, that's my challenge to you.

I am thankful to Hank and Sandee Sytsma, who taught me a long time ago a saying that I have repeated over the years and am now trying to teach my children.  It goes, "Humor at the expense of someone else is never funny."  Oh, they may laugh at your sarcasm now on the outside, but believe me when I say that it chips at their heart a little bit each time.  I'm not saying sarcasm is always bad, but you have to watch carefully how you use it.

Maybe you didn't need those reminders today, but I did.  So, if you don't like this post, just consider it written to myself to re-read again.  Then move on.  But if you did need those reminders today, try taking out your notebook during your quiet time over the next few days, and open up your Bible to Proverbs. 

When you see your family this week, thank God for them.  When you speak to someone this week, try to bless them. 

Have an attitude of gratefulness.  You are more blessed than you could possibly realize.  "It is only when our lives are emptied that we're surprised by how truly full our lives were." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

Today I am thankful for:  praise songs like this -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdEZlLnO-5Y,
and the few comforts I brought from home.

If you can only choose a few small things to bring to remind you of home for 3 months, what would they be?  Here are mine, however silly they may seem to you. (1) My big, heavy Bible, (2) my two favorite teacups for Alana and I to have tea, (3) 2 magazines from home (Country Living and Southern Living), and (4) my favorite fragrance body spray and lotion, Twilight Woods, to be used sparingly.



We're praying that this week is the week we finally get to take custody of our boys.  I can't wait to introduce them to you!