Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Father's Love

My first guest blogger! :)  A special message from my sweet husband...

John 3:16: For GOD so LOVED the world that he gave HIS only begotten SON that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

Hope abounds as we quickly approach Christmas and the grand celebration of our Savior's birth.  I am so thankful for the precious gift given to us by Christ's great sacrifice and the promise of eternal life. 

Although my Dad is no longer on this earth to share Christmas with this year, I rest in the assurance that I will one day see him again.  I am grateful for all the time we had with him and all of his great love for his family. 

One of the things his grandchildren did to say goodbye was to release balloons to Heaven at his graveside.  Several months later our children wanted to send balloons to Grandpa again to say hello so they wrote notes to him on the balloons and let them go to Heaven.  It was amazing to watch the balloons released separately from my children's hands stay side by side during their entire journey as far as eye could see. 
 




I have posted the short video celebrating my Dad's life for anyone who was unable to attend his memorial service or wants to one again remember the life that he lived.

Merry Christmas!
David
  

Friday, December 2, 2011

A year ago today...

We met the most beautiful little princess.
We fell in love looking into her big, beautiful brown eyes.
We danced.
We cuddled.
She fell asleep with her hand curled in mine.

Love looks like this...


And this...


And this...


And this...

Monday, November 21, 2011

God's Gift of Multiplication!



In shock. In amazement.

An incredibly generous donor has thrown down the gauntlet: they will MATCH the next $130,000 given to build the schools at Adami Tulu & Ziway - Lifesong for Orphans by December 31.

That's $65,000 for each school!

So for every $1,000 you give....it just magically turns into $2,000!

Now keep in mind, this is a real match, not a phony one. This is not a $130,000 gift. If we don't raise the money by December 31, it evaporates into this air.

I think I can speak for all of us working on this project, we are beyond excited!

Will join us in helping change the world?

MAKE A MATCHED DONATION NOW -
your donation is 100% tax deductible

Great Post about Adami Tulu

Remember Spare CHANGE Children's Lives?  Remember Adami Tulu?

I hope you will check out this post from Aaron Klein about what's next for Adami Tuli Project in Ethiopia! We would love to have your support as we go forward in faith to complete Phase 2!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

HAPPY Day!


October 31st, 2011 marked the begininng of a new family tradition!
HAPPY Day!
Harvest
Appple
Party
for
Parents
&
Young

The Parents...
aka Mickey Mouse & Mouseketeer

The Young...

Peter Pan!

Tinkerbell!

Wee Little Miss Captain Hook!


The night's activities included:
2 crafts,
a game,
a candy hunt,
and yummy, yummy food!

The first craft was creating Happy Apples...
one for each member of the family, in the style of each member for sure!


2nd activity... making tiny caramel apples to have for dessert later!
Yummy!

3rd activity... while Mommy was inside making dinner...
Mickey Mouse and the kiddos were outside collecting leaves
to make Happy Leaves of course!




What's for dinner?
Flap Jack'o Lantern Pancakes (pumpkin pancakes with white chocolate faces)



& Mighty Apple chompers...
Yep...



After dinner, the fun continued! 
Nothing like a game of Falling Leaves (dropping foam leaves from the balcony down to see if they can be caught by the person below!) to get the kiddos excited!

And finally, it was time for the Apple Picking (candy) Hunt.  Our kids love hunting for Easter Eggs... so we turned trick-or-treating into a bit of a hunt in their rooms upstairs.  They were delighted to find boxes of candy hidden under red apple cut-outs hidden in their rooms!

Time for dessert! 
How mini were the "caramel" apples (granny smith apples dipped in melted butterscotch chips and rolled in sprinkles... yummy)? ...
See for yourself!
For some of us, they were bite-size... others... just the perfect size!

Fun was definitely had by all!


Did our kiddos miss out on "trick or treating"? 
In the traditional sense... yes.

But, having our son exclaim (without prompting),
"This is the BEST night ever!"
We think that the first HAPPY festival was a hit!

P.S.  Yes, the "Candy Fairies" still did come in the night... replacing the piles of candy they gathered throughout the night... with golden dollars!  Ok... they replaced all except for the Junior Mints... which Peter Pan asked in a nicely written note that they please leave for him! ;)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Speeches and swimming and heels... oh my!

Nothing like a few adorable videos to make up for
7 months of not posting, right?
So... here is Beans practicing for his first speech meet.
A kindergarten speech meet you ask? Yes... it was adorable!
video

Then there is the new little swimmer!
video

She is having SO much fun!!

Can you tell?

And finally, not to be outdone by her older siblings,
our littlest Sweet Pea has taken to strolling... in heels. 

video

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lessons from a "Mommy Retreat" to the Beach...

One of my favorite authors is Max Lucado. To me, it seems as if he writes in pictures and parables the messages God lays on His heart. He describes times and lessons so vividly, it’s as if I can close my eyes and imagine myself there with Jesus… like a little child, who has come to sit upon his knee or sit at his feet and simply listen with childlike trust, love and simple understanding.

Our adoption journey that last four months has been difficult for our family. Each new week has brought with it the excitement of “Could this be the week we receive travel clearance?” and for 18 weeks now, the extraordinary disappointment of “Not yet.” It has been difficult to simply trust in God’s timing, to understand how he could purpose such a long wait for His glory, to calm the “Mama Bear” instincts that passionately rage inside my heart to have our daughter home.

God has blessed me with a husband who recognizes that God has created me as a “social introvert” (gotta love labels!). It simply means that while I love being around friends and family, I gain my energy from time alone… with God’s word, my bible, my guitar and a stack of sweet “chick-flicks”. Together we realized that I had not had such a time of refreshment since our first child was born… so 5 years later, here I am, in a quiet room at the beach… 36 hours later, refreshed, renewed and missing my hubby and kiddos like crazy! Exactly what this Mama needed!

Yesterday, I took a three hour walk on the beach. The beach wasn’t crowded, so many times I walked along with my eyes closed and simply listened… and prayed… and listened… and this is what I heard…

“Listen to the sea. What do you hear? How does it reflect Me?”

“Now look at the waves and beyond. What do you see? How does it reflect Me?”

“Close your eyes and feel the wind in your face. What is its purpose? How does it reflect Me?”

So, I listened.

The sound of the sea is constant. While the roars may ebb and flow a bit, the sound does not cease. While every once in a while I would become distracted by a sea gull, barking dog, or child giggling nearby, the sound of the sea was still there… constant. Not shattered by the other sounds. Constant. Not muted. Constant.

“How does it reflect Me?”

The presence of the Lord is constant. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. However, I realized that I’d let other “sounds” in my life mute His voice. Even in the constant chattering of my children, His voice is still whispering to me… constantly… if only I’ll listen. Even in HOA meetings, ministry work, part-time consulting work from home, laundry, groceries… His presence is constant, He is longing to direct my words and actions… if only I’ll listen. He is constant.

“Now what do you see?”

In the waves I saw bold strength crashing down upon the shore. I saw gentleness sweeping across the sand as the sea retreated back. As I looked beyond the line of crashing waves, I saw a vast sea of power and softness… so far beyond my vision… stretching beyond the horizon as-if completely endless.

“How does it reflect Me?”

It reminded me of how one of the children’s bible story books describes God’s love. His Unceasing, Unbreakable, Never giving up, Always & Forever Love. In two words “Be still”, Jesus calmed a raging storm. His powerful love brought gentle peace and safety to His children. Even to His children who were not fully trusting Him. How very much like me. His love is never-ending… His love endures forever. He is strong and powerful… yet gentle and wise. In His love, He has written the pages of each of our lives… given up His own life so we can spend eternity with Our Creator. His love is endless.

“The wind… close your eyes and feel the wind.”

On the first half of my walk, the wind guided me gently down the shore. On the second half, it pushed against my every step… strong, *chilly*, and gusting now and then.

“How does it reflect Me?”

The wind gave the gulls strength not just to fly but to soar! Sometimes we can feel the pressures of the world beating upon us at the wind in our face, but God is there to lift us, strengthen us, help us to soar above for His glory. I’m reminded of these words: Even the winds and the waves obeyed Him. Do not be tossed by waves of doubt and uncertainty. Hold fast to the Rock upon whom your foundation is built.

In 36 hours, I’ve spoken less than 1,000 words… no words of correction or discipline to my children… just simple words to my family of “I miss you. I love you.”

In 36 hours, I’ve listened… I’ve been corrected… I’ve been lovingly disciplined by my Father… and I’ve been restored.

His presence is always with me, strong, powerful and gentle… I simply have to listen, recognize His voice and obey!

His love is unceasing, always and forever. It is unstoppable… I simply have to choose to accept it, share it and live in and through it!

His purposes are always for good. Trials may come, but in them He does not leave. I am a work in progress, under construction… He has purposes for our family as we remain steadfast in His love. He is the foundation of our home and He reigns victoriously. I simply need to remember these things… and consistently put them into practice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SPARE CHANGE!!! YOU changed children's lives!

25 families joined us in collecting spare change (and/or donating during our SPARE CHANGE campaign!)! We launched the campaign in honor of our sweet baby girl's first birthday... While we missed having her with us... it was precious to see children bringing in their piggy banks to share with the children of Ethiopia!

We were excited to receive BAGS of coins on our front door;

checks in the mail from Oregon, Washington & Iowa;

on-line donations from Oregon, California, Colorado & New Mexico!


And... the final result? Over $900!!!!


And now... for the winners!!!! You can only win once (so everyone has a chance to win!!!)


Most combined: The Skeele Family... a huge bag of coins: $117.48... you win a t-shirt & chocolate!


Most quarters: The Moss Family... 124... you win a t-shirt!


Most dimes: The Durbin Family... 442... you win a t-shirt!


Most nickels: The Corrigan Family... 108... you win chocolate!


Most pennies: The Schneider Family... 492... you win chocolate!


Thank you to EVERYONE who donated. YOU made a difference... and touched our hearts and our son's heart as he saw the coins add up... and more and more children "fed"! :)


Once again, stay tuned for the next EXCITING fundraising campaign!

Adami Tulu - What now? A critically needed add-on project!

Upon receiving the incredible news that the classroom expansion project for Adami Tulu was fully funded, we stood in awe of how quickly God perfect provision for the project came about!

However, as our fundraising team (our family and our awesome friends the Williams) was really just getting started and our SPARE CHANGE campaign in mid-stream, LifeSong for Orphans Ethiopia was contacted to see if there was an additional need for the school.

Indeed, there was. In fact, they have a critical need for new restroom facilities that were not included in the original construction costs because the original fundraising goal was so high already. But, God is good!!! and He provided those funds!!!

Now, we have the opportunity to continue our fundraising to help make an even greater impact. This is what the current latrines look like in Adami Tulu... Cassie & Ryan Williams saw these first-hand on their latest trip to Ethiopia last month when they brought their handsome son home!...





Beautifully constructed restroom facilities in Ziway, Ethiopia (just north of Adami Tulu) where Lifesong also operates! This is what the finished project in Adami Tulu will look like!!!! What an incredible difference for the children and staff of the school!



So.... our fundraising continues to help provide for God's children... a chance for a good education, nutricious food, discipleship... and now... good hygiene! Praise the Lord! The cost... $7,500! So, let's get going! :)

Be on the look-out for our newest fundraising campaign in the next day or so! It is bound to peak your interest!!!

Or to give now.... simply click here.

Adami Tulu Classroom Expansion... the Lord works His wonders!

On 3/20/2011... our fundraising team received amazing news!

One generous donor read another team's latest blog post and saw that the overall need remaining to fund the classroom expansion project was $12,000. That day, the donor provided a single check to fill the gap!

The Lord worked in mighty ways to show us His goodness and generosity of His children for His children. We had donations ranging from $1.55 to $12,000... each giving what they could, with what they had for His purposes! THANK YOU!!!!

A team will be traveling to Adami Tulu, Ethiopia in August to help with the classroom construction, run a VBS, and perhaps provide small medical clinic sessions. If you would like to help support the team's travel costs, they are selling awesome t-shirts here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

100 Days of Waiting...

Today marks 100 days since we've been waiting to return to Ethiopia to bring our daughter home. I'll be very honest... These last 100 days have been days filled with hope and despair, joy and sorrow, celebrations and missed milestones. But as I've wrestled with God even just these last few days, He has shown me something I've been completely missing... Himself. His promises.

For the last six months or so, our family has started doing daily bible readings after dinner. We are using the NIV Family Reading Bible that walks young families through daily readings and offers questions for the kids (and parents) for discussion afterwards. Shani typically does some coloring and singing to herself while Micah listens quite attentively (most nights)so he can earn a stickers as rewards for right answers. Motivation is a good thing! :)

We were moving right along through the Bible until we can to Psalm 100. We've been "stuck" on it for a good month now. It has become our nightly reading with BOTH kiddos learning more and more of it by heart. It wasn't until I watched this video of Micah, read the words myself, and listened WITH my own heart that I realized God "stuck" us with this desire to read this nightly, so His words would penatrate our hearts and we would live boldy and confidently His promises.

video

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,

Worship the Lord with gladness;

Come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is He who made us, and we are His;

We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving

and His courts with praise;

Give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.

God called us to this miraculous journey of adoption, but I have allowed my heart to be in despair because the timeline is simply not matching up to my expectations.

I have leaned on my own understanding of things and my American expectations of how things should work.

God's Word says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Seeing others travel before us that were orginally "after us"... I have felt left behind... forgotten... I've questioned how God is purposing this all for good.

I say it again... God's word SAYS, "For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100:5)

And then I heard a quite whisper today, reminding me that this journey is not just the journey of myself, my hubby and our two precious children kids here in our arms. God may be using our sweet angel in Ethiopia in ways mysterious to us. Can a 1-year-old be used by God? Most certainly! Every day that passes, our hearts grow dearer to hers. Yet, she is thriving in the care of the nannies of the care center. She is growing and learning and loving and sharing in her birth culture. God is growing in her a testimony too. This is her journey to her forever family. Does God long for her to be in a forever family? Yes! One who has despaired over the days they have missed sharing with her? No!

So, I purpose for as many days of "waiting" yet to come, to do so with boldness and confidence in His promises for each of His children.

I love the song "While I am Waiting" by John Wallen. I am moved each time I hear it in the movie Fireproof. But, as I closed my eyes and listened to the words last night... I heard God confirming what He needs from us right now... while we wait on Him and His plan for us...

I will serve you while I'm waiting

I will worship while I'm waiting

I will not faint

I'll be running the race even while I wait

The song recognizes that waiting can be painful but we can remain hopeful; that waiting is not easy but it can be peaceful... if we wait on/in/and through Him.

If you are an adoptive Mommy/Daddy I pray you'll be touched by this song...

While I am Waiting ...

For all others... whatever you are waiting for (answers, jobs, clarity, direction), I pray you will do so in and through Him.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spare CHANGE Children's Lives Forever

My hubby put together this beautiful video. Please take a couple minutes to let us introduce you to our newest fundraising efforts for the Adami Tulu, Ethiopia school project!

Click Here for video!

Reportedly, there are over $10 Billion U.S. in coins currently gathering dust as spare change in piggy banks and old cookie tins in homes all across America.

Gathering dust…

$10 Billion…

Gathering dust…

Yet, imagine for a moment what your spare change could do?

Micah to Mommy, “What can this quarter do for the children in Ethiopia?”

Mommy to Micah, “It can provide two nutritious meals to fill their tummies for an entire day.”

“What about this dime?”

“That’s just about enough for one meal.”


From this conversation, our 5-year-old son inspired us to think about the spare change we had laying around and what an impact that random quarter and dime could have if only we allowed it to.

So we went on a hunt for spare change and this is what we found:
• $0.74 in Mommy & Daddy’s “key/sunglasses/wallet” baskets
• $2.70 in Daddy’s car
• $5.22 in Mommy’s minivan
• $6.15 in Mommy’s wallet (and the bottom of her purse)
• $28.16 in the coin jar
• PLUS $6.25 from returning 125 soda pop cans (5 cans = 1 child fed for a day!)

$49.22 in coins (and cans) gathering dust…

As we continue to raise money for the Adami Tulu School project in Ethiopia, we realize that many families with today’s economy go from paycheck to paycheck somehow making it through the month with nothing left to show for by the end of each month. However, somehow we always seem to have a bit of spare change that we have collected over the weeks that sits idly in our vehicles or on our dresser or slips through the couch cushions.

So, we have come up with a fund-raising strategy that we would like to share with you...

We are calling it:

Spare C H A N G E Children’s Lives Forever

We are proposing that you collect and save your spare change over the next 30 days, pray about what options you have, and do something with it.


Consider these 3 options:
1.) Use it for yourself.
2.) Give to someone you know directly that really needs it.
3.) Give to the Adami Tulu School Project.

As we were pondering over this idea, God put into our hearts and minds the lesson of The Widow's Offering from Mark 12:41-44.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

It reminded us that no matter where we are at in life, even if we don't have much, God still wants us to give from what He has given us.

Want to have a little more fun with this? How about a contest? At the end of March, the individual or family who has contributed the most (1) pennies, (2) nickels, (3) dimes, (4) quarters and (5) coins overall, will receive a prize! Winners for most pennies and nickels will receive a yummy "Hope Takes Root" white chocolate bar. Winners for most dimes and quarters will receive an awesome "Hope Takes Root" T-shirt. And for biggest donation overall... both chocolate and a T-shirt!

So start collecting, counting, and tallying your total... donate and then leave a comment with your totals!

If at the end of the 30 days (or SOONER!!) you would like to give to the Adami Tulu School project, there are a couple options to do so. One option is to mail a check made payable to Lifesong Adami Tulu Fund, PO Box 40, 202 N. Ford, Gridley, Illinois 61744. Please write: “Team Reece-Williams” in the memo field. The second option is to deposit your change and give online through our secure donation page through LifeSong. You can donate on-line via PayPal at http://akle.in/adamitulu-williams-reece using your credit card.
And THAT is other exciting news! Our travel companions from our first court trip to Ethiopia have joined hands with us to raise funds towards our goal! Ryan & Cassie we feel so blessed to have you on board!

For more information on Lifesong for Orphans: http://www.lifesongfororphans.org/

“How blessed is he who considers the helpless…” Psalm 41:1

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Let me out of this cocoon!

I've been writing the BEST blog posts in my head while showering, going for walks, making dinner... they've been just perfect! Now, here's my best attempt to get it out of my head and heart and into written words!

I've told close friends lately that our family has been in a stage of "cocooning". I didn't think much about that phrase until I was reading Shani the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar yesterday. I laughed out loud thinking of how similar I am to the caterpillar... eating a little healthy food here, a lot of junk there (seriously... I was working yesterday and 1/2 a bag of Cheeto Puffs disappeared!!!), and then filling myself up with a nice green leaf on Sunday (extra prayer time!).

Anyway, the caterpillar ate and ate, then he built a cocoon around himself and "stayed inside for more than two weeks. Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and..."

Ok... let's stop there! :)

In complete honesty, this journey has been tough. In order to withstand the incredible ups and downs, I've built a cocoon around myself. I've found that sometimes God has us withdraw a bit in order to build us up, strengthen us, and push us forward to the light and life of His plans. It's OK.

However, the last couple of weeks especially have been "dark" inside this little cocoon. It has been almost 11 weeks since we last saw OUR baby girl (the caterpillar only stayed in his cocoon 2 weeks!). And, there is absolutely no indication of when we will see her again. None.

Yes, we received a beautiful, smiling picture of our little angel on the other side of the world. Yes, we KNOW God is in control and will bring her home... but our love for her just grows each day... the longing for her to be with us increases... and this total lack of control of not knowing when she will be home completely stills life somedays.

Somedays I feel like I can't stay in this cocoon any longer... it's been TOO long... it's dark... it's suffocating... So, each day my heart LEAPS at a new e-mail, at a single phone call... will this be the day we hear the precious words that we have been cleared to travel?

We are not alone in this journey and we are so incredibly thankful for our new adoption family. Not only are we blessed with new best friends living less than a mile from us whom can truly understand this journey... we have 8 other families literally scattered throughout the nation that we traveled with on our first trip for court. ALL of us are still waiting. ALL of us are still praying. We have seen families with court dates after us, go before us. We have gathered together in a virtual group hug... gathering together in prayer... all 9 families. We long to rejoice watching each family be reunited with their child God has chosen for them.

We are so ready to "nibble a hole in the cocoon", push our ways out and fly! Fly to our children, embrace them with the incredible love God has given us for them, and bring them home... to our families... to our children here who too have been through the ups and downs and confusion of the wait.

I know that these "labor pains" will soon end and we will once again be overwhelming blessed by God's faithfulness as we become a family of 5. One day we WILL look fondly back on this wait.

After all, I now remember fondly the third tri-mester of my pregnancy with Micah. As a high-risk pregnancy, I was blessed to have 3 doctors appointments every week, a weekly ultrasound, 2 weekly non-stress tests. A weekly ultrasound meant I was able to see "new pictures" of my baby weekly! 2 non-stress tests meant I was able to lay for 1/2 an hour each time and hear my baby's heart beat! At the time it was exhausting and inconvenient... now I would give anything to see weekly pictures of my Ethiopian princess, to cuddle her and hear her heart beat!

I know... long ramblings of a very pregnant adoptive Mommy. All this to say... when our family comes to mind, please pray for God to make a way for us to be reunited with our daughter quickly. Please pray for our children here to continue to bond with pictures of their sister. Please pray for us to have peaceful, patient, understanding hearts... and to continue to share His light and the beauty of adoption!


" But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's Next?... Adami Tulu!!!

Our last blog post ended with these words:

"God, what plans do you have for us next?"

In reality, this has been a prayer item for us through each major (and minor) journey that He has set our feet upon. When we were asking this question, when we said "next" we were thinking... after our adoption is complete and our family is finally all together!

Ever since our first trip to Ethiopia in February of 2008, Ethiopia has become a signicant part of our lives. Not only have we been blessed with an incredible daughter, we have been blessed by her precious heritage. We fell in love with the people, the amazing history, the land...

And yet, as we traveled back to Ethiopia in December of 2010, we prayed that God would open our eyes and hearts in a new way. For years our hearts have been burdened by the sheer statistics of orphans in our world. There is, in fact, a global orphan crisis. But, what would He have us do? One by one we see families being blessed by God uniting them together with sweet children as "Forever Families"... and we long to advocate for the miraculous beauty of adoption, both domestically and internationally. Our family has been twice-blessed now by adoption, but how else could we make a difference?


Our prayer was that God would lead us to an organization that provided for three key areas: physical, spiritual, and educational well-being for orphans and vulnerable children. And a "bonus" would be one where we could stand side-by-side other adoptive families and perhaps one day become involved with our hands and feet (in addition to financially).

God has answered our prayers and we are so excited that God has clearly showed us what he has for us "next"! (Funny... His timing was not for us to have our adoption complete and our baby girl home in our arms... rather to go forward now... as His children need us now... not just once things are "nice and tidy"!)

Without further adieu, we'd like to introduce you to the Adami Tulu Project through Lifesong for Orphans! This is a project that meets our prayer areas perfectly... meeting the physical, spiritual, and educational needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia! And, YES!, God gave us our "bonus" request... as we are partnering with at least three other adoptive families at this time! He is GOOD! Aaron & Casey Klein, Holt International adoptive parents, are spear-heading these efforts and we are thrilled to join them.

In short, this is an opportunity to raise funds to build and expand a Christian school in a primarily Muslim area just about 100 miles south of the capital city of Addis Ababa. David and I are thrilled that on our next trip to bring our baby girl home, we will actually be driving by this village on our trip back to Addis from Durame! Not only do these precious children receive a strong faith-based education, they are provided 2 nutritious meals every school day!

Our team's goal is to raise the entire $35,000 needed for the project. David and I have committed to being one of seven couples aiming to raise $7,000 each for the project. Some will raise more... some less... but together we are working to make a difference.

Are you interested?

Will you join us?

Is God calling you to help look after His children? How will you answer?

Need more information?

Click here for more detailed information on the Adami Tulu Project!

And...

Click here to learn more about Lifesong for Orphans...

And FINALLY...

CLICK HERE to help make the first donations to get our fundraising effort started!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Beautiful Ethiopia... Life is precious!

On November 30th, we began our first trip to bring our 2nd sweet baby girl home!

While I don't feel it necessary to take a trip down memory lane day by day here on our blog, I do finally feel ready to share just a bit... of our pictures... and my heart.

We had prepared ourselves for an emotional journey, knowing we would meet the little one God intended for our family, only to leave her behind and in His arms once again. We prayed that our eyes and hearts would be wide open to what God would show us and teach us on this leg of the journey. Though we had thought we were prepared, we surely weren't. What a blessed, trying, joyful, heart-warming, heart-breaking trip we took!

There are simply no adequate words to describe the emotions of meeting your child for the first time. We had loved on her picture for 4 months and now met her face to face. She is simply precious. Calm. Alert. Endearing. Cuddly. She has the biggest brown eyes (and that is saying A LOT coming from this brown-eyed mama of two other brown-eyed babies!)! She fell in love with Daddy and watched his every move. Precious... just precious.

Our large travel group was such a blessing to be a part of. So many of us had connected before arriving in Ethiopia, others we met as we waited in line through immigration... all became family. It's an unexplainable experience how God draws families together so easily as you walk the same paths. Watching each family meet their child was simply precious.

When we first found out we would have to travel twice to Ethiopia, it was a bit discouraging. When we found out that we would travel 18,000 air miles round-trip to appear before a judge for approximately 2 minutes, it was... a bit unthinkable. However, having been there/done that, we consider it a great priviledge! We were with the judge 62 seconds, stated our desire for our sweet baby to join our family forever, and at the end of our questioning heard these precious words, "Then I have nothing to worry about. She is yours." Precious.... just precious.
(Note to other adoptive parents: while the judge may say this to some families, no one "passes court" until the written court decree is complete.)

Saying goodbye to our sweet girl was indeed a heart-challenge. While in country, we learned how precious and fragile life is. Several of our travel companions were struggling with having their children in the hospital, and united by God's love for one another, it was impossible not to feel the pain that they were feeling, leaving their children with so many unknowns. (All in our travel group are healthy now... Praise the Lord!!!) David and I felt incredibly fortunate that our sweet girl was healthy and cuddled her extra knowing what a sweet blessing we were being given in those moments with her.

As we put her down in her bed for the last time, she turned over, got to her knees, pulled up on the back of her crib, pulled to stand, reached up and pulled her nametag off the wall... as if to say, "I'm outta here! Mommy and Daddy are here!" A heart-challenge for sure! :)

The next day we began a tour of Northern Ethiopia that was simply incredible. On our first adoption journey to bring Shani home, we did not have the chance to travel much outside the capital city of Addis Ababa. We are so glad that we took the opportunity to SEE Ethiopia this trip. In 3 days, we traveled over 750 kilometers (about 470 miles) north to Bahir Dar and Gondar and back (yep... that's 1,500 kilometers or about 900+ miles roundtrip). It was simply incredible! The landscape beautiful! The villages amazing! Life so simple and so full of joy!Toiling with joy! Thankfulness for littlest assistance! The history incredible! Did I say it was an incredible trip? I'll let the pictures tell more of that story...

A bit more of heart... God allowed us to see and learn (and perhaps re-learn) so much that when we returned to the U.S., it was an incredibly difficult transition. Culture shock doesn't even seem like the most appropriate description. It was just simply hard for my heart to function in this seemingly complex life with so many "worries". My "worries" now seemed so petty. My "needs"... simply wants. Walking into Costco... I could barely handle knowing how much I had at my fingertips while I'd met a woman and daughter who would walk for miles and miles carrying their own weight of wood on their backs to earn $.30 that day.

However, what David and I learned on this journey is that poverty is not the "end all". Joy abounds!

What is now on our hearts... not to bring "abundance" to His children, but to bring them comfort in their distress, food and water for their survival, education and the living Word of the Lord... More on this to come, we pray...

Let's get on with the pictures...
So many of the sights and smells made it feel as if we were coming home... I loved waking up the first morning to find bright sunshine and to be greeted by this "cat on a hot tin roof" just outside our guesthouse.



A familiar sight... seeing the children's clothing all lined up to dry...


Meeting our baby girl... just precious... don't worry... it won't be long until we can post her precious face... until now, feel free to "oooh" and "ahhh" over her adorable hands and feet...
.

Watch out Shani... baby sister is going to LOVE your shoes... in fact, she's only half a toe length away from sharing the same size as you!!!


After giving her a bottle, sweet baby girl lovingly on her own reached out to hold my finger... I nearly squealed and begged David to grab the camera QUICK!


Our tour guide... Tsegaw... YOU ARE AWESOME!!!


The Blue Nile Gorge... a bit hazy from the pollution of Addis, but a simply amazing landscape... think Grand Canyon, albeit wider! God's majesty so alive in His creation!




We were driving on a Saturday and as we "climbed" up out of the base of the Gorge, literally hundreds of people were carrying loads just like this to the top of the Gorge for market day. Miles and miles and miles... most with no shoes... most with beaming smiles... to earn less than a dollar that day...


Beautiful farmland... all done by hand... all done by hand... endless miles...

Market day in just one of hundreds of villages we passed through...


The highlight of Bahir Dar... Lake Tana. We took a boat ride across the lake to two different islands to visit monasteries. The first one was closed due to construction, but I will never forget our visit to the second. When we got off the boat, we were greeted by a sweet young boy. He led us across wiggly rocks to the main part of the island and as he did I began to ask him a few questions. 25 families live on the island supporting the monastery. He takes a boat ride each day to attend school in Bahir Dar. He is 11-years-old. And, when I asked him what he wanted to do when he got bigger, he replied, "Oh ma'am, whatever God chooses me to be." Precious...








Lake Tana hippo! Yep... we were in the boat... just about as close as comfort allows! tee... hee...






Along the journey, we stopped several times for coffee (so much for decaffinating myself this summer... there is NOTHING like Ethiopian coffee... Yum!!!) and yummy food. This particular stop we were given a full coffee ceremony along with yummy injera, eggs, chicken and goat (yep, I ate the goat... much more outgoing than our first trip... and didn't even get sick this time... imagine that!).

Precious children everywhere we went...



A very proud mother... wanting to show me her baby...


One form of transportation... in fact, we had a close run-in with one of these! Alas, all is well!


Incredible views...





Gondar... think Ethiopian Camelot... six 16th century castles in one location... the construction was simply amazing and the history given by our hired tour guide... unbelievable! If only I could remember a tenth of all he shared with us!




Church...




Our tour guide in Gondar! What a memory! Wow!!!
He loved this picture and seeing the height differential!

The ceiling inside the church... a multitude of angels... singing "Glory to God in the Highest!"





The city of Gondar with the castles in the far distance...





On our drive back to Addis (all in one day... a 14 hour drive...) we stopped along the way handing out small birr bills. Sometimes we would be "blessed" by priests/monks, always we saw pure joy, sometimes we were able to stop long enough for a "story"...

"May your journey be blessed... your travels safe..."



A sweet humble shepherd working to make 2 birr (16 birr = $1) a day plus one meal.


A mother and daughter climbing the gorge with hopes of making 5 birr that day.


Babboons...

While we say goodbye for now...

We will return beautiful Ethiopia...



You will never leave our hearts...


God what plans do you have for us next?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." James 1:27