Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mary's Mothering

It’s Christmas again.  Philip and I have readjusted to being back in the States.  Well, “adjusted” is a subjective concept.  My brother-in-law pointed out that we haven’t been “normal” since we returned from Brazil 5+ years ago.  He’s pretty much right.  Seeing the world changes your life in so many ways.
Things I miss about Ethiopia: the food, the absence of “stuff”, the relational atmosphere, and the “earthiness” of living there.  It’s hard to be here in the States, surrounded by the fuss of Christmas and all the superficial happiness that “stuff” brings when it really won’t satisfy.  A few days, a week, a year later, no one remembers what they got, things are broken, used, and become unnecessary clutter.
For the last several years,  I've been a Grinch when it comes to Christmas because I really miss some key people in my family.  Even though Christmas really is about the birth of Christ, I still find myself affected by circumstances.  Knowing my kids will be home soon is bringing back some of the joy in the holiday and helping me think about Christ’s humanity in new ways.  This year, I am not constantly cringing at the sound of Christmas carols, I don’t mind singing them in church, and I have even stopped to admire a few Christmas decorations.  There is hope for me yet!  
This year, with the addition of “mommy” to my title, I've been reflecting on what Mary might have been feeling as she held her little One, Jesus.  What was her perspective?  Because of her unique conception, virginity, angelic direction, prophecies, and the presence of a star, shepherds, and wisemen surrounding the birth of her Firstborn, she undeniably knew that her Son was special.  But how much did she know?
What kind of mother was she?  Did she get nervous if Jesus crawled too close to the fire?  Or did she know that He had walked through fire before, protecting others (Daniel 3)?  Did she count His toes or snuggle with His soft head?  Did she know that He had already numbered the very hairs of her own head (Luke 12)?  Did she savor every moment, knowing that her time with Him would be cut short?  Was she miffed that He spent so much time with others, or did she understand Jesus’ fluid concept of family (Matt 12:46-50)?  Was she at all disappointed that Jesus didn't take over the family business of carpentry?  Was she confused by His apparent education (John 7)?  Or did she realize that He was the Word from the beginning of time (John 1)?  Was she intimidated by His perfection?  Or did she take pride in His obedience?  Did she secretly compare His siblings to her Firstborn and wonder where she went wrong?  Did she understand that His sacrifice was the reason He was born?  Had she learned to imitate His love for others and to live her life to serve?  Did she ever feel comfortable in John’s home after Jesus’ death, or feel like an outsider looking in (John 19)?  
History has made Mary into someone she was not.  She was not sinless, was not perpetually a virgin, was not immortal, and is not part of a path to God.  She was, however, blessed and highly favored by God (Luke 1).  She had a relationship with God such that He singled her out to parent His Son.  She was the only girl in the history of the world to have this honor.  Indeed, she was an extraordinary girl to receive it.  
As I think about my little man and my baby girl in Ethiopia right now, all snuggled and sleeping, I miss Jayce’s fuzzy noggin, and Anya’s big eyes.  I look forward to having them home and being able to explain the Christmas story in ways that they will understand.  I find myself challenged by Mary’s example of mothering and am reminded of the lessons I need to learn from her life:
  • Trust God to walk through the fire with my children
  • Know that He has the hairs of their head numbered
  • Be thankful for the time I do have with them
  • Do not dwell on the time I have lost
  • Realize that "family" is indeed a fluid concept
  • Let go of my preconceived ideals
  • Trust God’s training of my children and His work in their lives
  • Trust His direction in their lives and acknowledge that He works differently in each life
  • Realize that pain in my childrens’ lives is part of the process, and God can use it in ways beyond my comprehension
As I walk with God, trusting Him and living according to His will, I have the privilege to positively impact my children who are made in the image of Him who created them, given to me as a gift for a season, and in turn entrusted back to Him.  

Read last year’s Christmas post here

A doodle about what’s been on my heart.   If anyone would like it, I’m happy to send it to you. It's 8x10-ish sized. I only have the original (pen and watercolor pencils), and participation in my adoption puzzle might be nice. Message me first, please.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Home :)

In a nutshell, we're home! As happy and comfortable as we were in Africa, it is good to be in our own home.  It was a novelty to be able to flush toilet paper again, and I had to think about putting my toothbrush under the faucet when brushing my teeth.

Before we left Ethiopia, our guest house had a coffee ceremony for us.
Roasting coffee
Coffee ceremony
In the airport in DC, headed home in Thanksgiving day
Our flight from Addis to DC was long, but there was an extra seat next to us, so I was able to lay down to sleep.  The flight from DC home was practically torture- after traveling so long, it seemed to stretch on forever.  My father in law and brother in law met us at the airport, and mom came to bring us home.  She had cooked a full thanksgiving dinner for us, and had it ready minutes after we walked in the door.
Mommy-made Thanksgiving dinner, with suitcases
Also, when we got home, I was met by an incredibly clean house (the elves even vacuumed my stairs...) and framed "maternity" pictures and pics of my kids all over the place.
Elves' work in my house
AND, I got a big box from my best friend in New York-- she put together a bunch of little packages for me to open whenever I'm especially missing my kiddos.

So, yeah, my friends pretty much rock.

Now begins the very last waiting phase in this whole process.  I'll keep y'all updated as things unfold.  Thanks for following our family!  :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hikes and Snuggles

We're leaving today, and I wanted to stick in one last blog post before we left.  We've had some free time, so we've taken some long walks back behind Addis into the countryside.  Dirt roads, donkey carts, and fried pastries...  So wonderful to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of non-city Ethiopia.

"Street sambusa" with lentils- basically deep-fried
pastry with filling, for 12 cents each.  So yummy!

One of the Orthodox churches half way up a mountain.
Hiking at 7,500 feet takes it toll! 

We also went shopping at the merkato and post office market:

And, of course, we had to say goodbye to our precious kiddos.
Two of the wonderful caregivers that have loved on my kiddos

I put my necklace on Jayce as the one his birth mom gave him
fell off.  I do have the original now, and will save it for him for later.

The caregivers gave me the opportunity to pour
buna (coffee).  They tried to take Anya from me,
but I pretty much refused.  :)  I can do both at once.

Jayce's fuzzy head is officially addicting.
Nothing better than happy nap snuggles with
my little man.

Abba, I pray that Your protection would surround my kiddos
and that they would be aware of Your presence
in the coming months of transition.
For Jayce, make his arms strong to do Your work,
his mind quick to understand Your Truth,
his heart soft for others in need,
and his feet swift to run to Your arms.
For Anya, may her small hands be skilled to serve others,
her heart be compassionate as You are,
her eyes see people as You do,
her mouth speak Your truth with love,
and may her feet be quick to run to You. 
I trust You with my kids.  They are Yours. 
Thank you for the gift You have given me.  Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Adventures in Gambella

As many of you know, we ventured out of the comforts of Addis Ababa and into the wilds of Western Ethiopia.  Our children were born in a small town in the far west of the country.  From the very beginning (getting to the airport), it was a memorable venture. 

Just a note: Mom, we are safe and sound.  Please don’t worry.  J 
Inside the Taxi-Bug during one of our breakdowns

Not a great pic, but the soldier and the goat
Now, instead of a regular taxi, we took a “taxi-bug” (my term) to the airport.  They are the little three-wheeled golf-cart looking things that zip around on the side streets.  “Zip” may be too generous of a term.  “Putter” might be more accurate.  The trip should have taken us about 15 minutes.  Instead, we went half the speed of regular cars, ran out of gas once (our driver had a Gatorade bottle of gas for a refill), and broke down 3 times.  Once we started to roll backwards into traffic, and once we were smack in the middle of a busy round-a-bout.  It was actually rather hillarious! 

Eventually, we made it in the vicinity of the airport where our driver booted us out of the taxi-bug, indicating the airport was “that direction”.  We could see pieces of it above the trees.  We paid him his 100 birr (About $5), and began walking.  We asked directions about 3 times and finally made it! 

The flight itself was uneventful, thankfully.  As we flew over Ethiopia, we were struck by the amount of farm land.  Wow, it’s beautiful!  We flew over a mountainous area, and lastly over lush green.  Somehow I expected Gambella to be brown and grassy.  Nope.  There are beautiful green trees everywhere! 
The “airport” in Gambella is a glorified landing strip.  The “control tower” is literally a shack with wires poking out of the top, and before we departed the following day, we watched a soldier chase a goat off the tarmac.  For real.  

We saw monkeys!!!
Thankfully, we were quickly met by Del, the director of the Ethio-Berlin orphanage out there. The road from
the airport into town is about 3 miles of dirt and gravel.  On either side was grass 8 feet tall, and green trees and shrubs.  It was so beautiful!  Occasionally we drove through a few herds of goats or cows grazing. 
Our car got stuck in the mud :)
The hotel there ($25 night) was nice and perfectly adequate.  I am pretty sure it was the nicest in town, and we saw many businessmen there along with representatives from the Red Cross, Norwegian health organizations, United Nations, etc.  After a lunch of sheep and injera, Del said that they had found Anya’s birth mom, and we could meet her!

For my daughter’s sake, I won’t share details or pictures of this precious girl, but the meeting was totally
worth the trip out to Gambella.  It was an honor to communicate to her how much we loved Anya, and how thankful we were for the privilege of raising her.  We did get a short video and several pictures. 
We were not able to meet Jayce’s birth mom, but the orphanage did have pictures of her, which was great.  We were able to tour the orphanage where our kiddos spent several months, and we saw their beds and their play yard. 

Then, the most unheard-of thing happened: Dell showed us pictures of Anya within days of her birth!  Virtually no international adoptive mom gets true baby pictures of her kiddos, but we did!  SO precious!!!! 
We also learned a little about Jayce.  His name, Niyal, means “rain” in one of the local tribal languages.  How stinkin’ cool!  I LOVE rain!  J  Our hostess here in Addis, Yeshi, commented that “rain is good!  In Ethiopia, rain is life!”  It seems an appropriate fit with his name, Jayce, meaning “healer”.
Gambella as a town is pretty much “Africa”.  I’m not sure how else to describe it.  Many roads are dirt and
there are thatched huts just outside the city.  Some houses are made from mud.  People bathe in the river, drink the river water, and congregate by the river to stay cool.  We had some of the most delicious coffee there, sitting by the river.  We later learned the coffee was made from river water. Mom, we’re fine, the coffee was boiled and no harm
We're soaking with sweat,
but it was a pretty river!
came of it!  I met an older gentleman by the river who spoke excellent English.  He was born and raised in Gambella, educated there, and had a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.  He was so kind, telling me about his two sons, and warning Philip not to cut his lip while trying to eat sugar cane. 

One of the funniest things was seeing a lady carrying a backpack.  Balanced on her head.  They carry everything on their heads, from mattresses to bundles of sticks.  The Gambellan people are truly regal.  Many are the tallest, darkest people you’d ever run across, and they stand and walk like they are in a king’s palace.  They are graceful in everything.  Many of the men have chevron-shaped scaring on their foreheads to indicate their tribe.  While these ridges sound, well, tribal, they are actually quite beautiful and add to the stately bearing of the people. 

Over all, it was an incredible experience. I’m super thankful we went, and I think we have a much better
perspective of where our children were born.  Del showed us around town, including the women’s center where they have 20 treadle sewing machines to train women how to sew.  We hiked up the only mountain in Gambella to an Orthodox Church and a beautiful view of the surrounding region.  And, because I was interested in local crafts, we went to the prison.  Yup!  The prisoners make beaded things and sell them.  I picked up a few necklaces and a bead-covered gourd.  On the way back, we stopped in the market and I got a few yards of cloth for my mom.  Mom, it’s pretty nutty, but maybe you can make an apron or something from it.  It was fun to find and buy.  I hope you like it! J

Our flight left about 4pm.  The check-in for the flight was an office desk that people crowded around.  “Standing in line” is not a part of the culture here.  We were handed a hand-written boarding pass, with no seat assignment.  Basically, when it was time to board, we all just crowded on the plane and sat wherever there was room. 

Del requested that when we return to Addis, we bring toys for his orphanage.  He also requested that we purchase a laptop for him (he pays us back, of
course), and he will come to Addis when we return for Embassy to pick it up.

Landing in Addis, we didn’t have a ride waiting for us, so we started to walk.  No, we didn’t walk the whole way.  Only a little ways into the city to find a taxi that wouldn’t charge us an arm and a leg.  We hoped for another taxi-bug, but I guess they don’t usually run in the busier parts of town.  It was hard to be petitioned by so many beggars as we walked along the streets.  So much need and hurt, and no way to truly help.
The women's center with the sewing machines

Mom, as I said, we survived, are safe, and none the worse for wear.  We’ve only a week left in country, so we’ll be home soon.  
Our tickets headed back to Addis
Gambella countryside from the top of the mountain

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Few Fun Pics

A few fun pictures from today's visit:
Baby girl is walkin'!  She was doing great!

Baby girl "walked" over to her daddy, who
caught her with big brother's help!

Jayce was the sweetest ever with his little sister!

She loves her daddy!

Walking takes a LOT of concentration!

This water bottle thing is kinda new and
doesn't always work very well.

Philip kissed Anya, and then Jayce copied him.
He was so gentle and sweet!

Touching the top of baby sister's head.  It looks like
he's blessing her! :)
Jayce, when Philip got out the camera

Silly little man grabbed mommy's glasses! :)