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Friday, December 27, 2013

Arnold Memory Book 2013

Click here to view the 2013 Arnold Memory Book.

Here's hoping you'll be a part of our 2014 year in review!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Traditions

In my elementary-school years, I could set a clock by our Christmas traditions. (Go back to a favorite memory of delivering presents with my Dad here.) On Christmas Eve, we spent the afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa's (where the tree had large, multi-colored lights), then off to 5:00 children's Mass at St. James.  Then we'd spend the rest of the evening just across the street at my mom's parents' (where the tree always had silver icicles!) I'll always remember the peppermint sugar sticks Mom Elmore put in a fresh orange as a treat.  Then the next morning, we'd find that Santa had come and we'd have to open up quick and then clean up quick before both sides of the family came to have a country ham breakfast and spend the day at our home. 

Now that I have my own children and we don't live so close to the grandparents, we've come up with our own traditions. (Mostly stolen ideas from friends!)  For one thing, Santa brings the kids a box of super-sweet, sugary cereal each year -- one of their favorites! Another is that we let the kids sleep in our room on Christmas Eve. They think it's really fun, but we really do it to keep them all in one spot so we can go in for surprises together. I don't want to miss ONE look of joy! I remember sitting on the steps when we were young waiting for Mom and Daddy to get their coffee before we were allowed to go in the living room. I've kept this part of Christmas intact!

We have other traditions, but I recently stumbled upon a writing assignment of Sammie's on this very topic.  I'm so happy that these have found meaning to her already. Enjoy a couple of other traditions in her own words. I know I did!

Holiday Traditions

Every Christmas, we have our own special traditions. the first tradition is every Christmas Eve, we always have yummy Chinese food. We get sweet and sour chicken, steamed dumplings and kung pao chicken. It's a fun tradition because it's delicious.

Another fun tradition is we hide the pickle. We hide a lime-colored glass pickle ornament in the tree and whoever finds it first gets to open the first present. Families around the world have made this tradition for many years. A couple of my friends said they do this every year too. It's very interesting and fun to see who finds it.

The last tradition is we put baby Jesus in the manger. In our large nativity set, there's a dirty manger for baby Jesus. Before the Christmas holiday, we wrap Jesus up and put him under the tree. On Christmas morning, the youngest in the family gets to place him in the manger. This is a valuable and precious tradition because it represents our families Christian religion.

As pleased as I am that she loves these things. I hope that being with family is the most important and meaningful tradition of all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Eyob's American Name is Joseph

It took some discussion for us to decide on it, but there it is: Joseph.
It’s a family name on both sides of the family for one thing. I LOVE that!
And for another, like Eyob (which means Job, as you may recall) it’s a very solid Bible name.  In fact, the very morning after we had discussed Joseph as a possibility, I ran into a friend. I’d been lamenting about some traumatic adoption stories I’d read – if I haven’t mentioned, adoption is a broken process in so many ways. She came to tell me she’d been thinking about me and wanted to encourage me with a story from the Old Testament. You guessed, the one about Joseph.

You see after the gorgeous coat and before he was named second in command in all of Egypt, he’d undeservedly landed in jail. But when he had the chance to talk about that time what Joseph said was, “Evil was planned against me, but God used those plans for the good.” I’m not one to get all goose-prickly, but I did in that moment! It’s one of the BEST stories of the Old Testament. Take a look, if you’ve never read it.
Since Sammie was little, Joseph and his coat of many colors has been a favorite story in our home. (Thank you, Donnie Osmond.) 
Also, I find it interesting as we come upon this Christmas season to remember that Jesus’ earthly father was named Joseph.
I had the joy of singing a duet at a Christmas Eve service a few years back. I had heard the song “Mary, Did You Know?” plenty of times before. This songs mixes that favorite with one I hadn’t heard called “It Wasn’t His Child.”  Julianne Hough and Phil Vassar recorded it several years ago -- Youtube it for yourself – it’s so worth it. But here are the lyrics for that part of the song – maybe you can see why it touched me so then and now:
He was her man, she was his wife.
And late one winter night, he knelt by her as she gave birth.
But it wasn’t his child.
And still he took him as his own,
And as he watched him grow, he brought him joy.
He loved that boy,
But it wasn’t his child.
It wasn’t his child.

Like a father he was strong and kind,
And I believe he did his best.
It wasn’t easy for him. He did all he could.
He grew up with his hands in wood.
And he died with his hands in wood.
It was God’s child.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the lamb

He was her man, she was his wife.
And late one winter night, he knelt by her as she gave birth.
But it wasn’t his child.
It was God’s child.

If you’ve never read that story, it’s one of the BEST stories in the New Testament. Then, read the rest. It has a great ending.
Merry Christmas, everyone!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

30 Short Days

30 of the shortest, long days of my life. 
Someone asked me last night if Eyob (long e, long o) was transitioning well. Maybe I’m being na├»ve, but I think he’s doing great, given that a month ago he left a couple dozen people he’d spent his whole life with. Part of me is just waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. In the meantime, I’m just trying to soak up the joy he’s brought into our home. We’ve laughed so, so much since he came home.
As for his adjustment, I guess ask me when he’s 15 or 25 or 45. We’ll know better then.
For now, I can tell you briefly what the first 30 days have been like. The transition so far has looked like this:
From screaming bloody murder in the bathtub to splashing like a fish.
From crying non-stop in the carseat to peaceful rides (mostly).
From running from siblings to arms open wide for a quick pick-up.
From clinging to mom constantly to asking sister to turn on the singing Christmas ornaments.
From staring blankly when we asked questions to signing "please", "thank you", "more" and "all done"! He even waves a greeting, if you don't scare him too much. 
From no words at all to "eat", "up" and "hot". And some swear he's trying to say “sissy.”
From eating only baby oatmeal to begging for my potstickers.
From being terrified of outside to pulling brother to the door to play in the snow.
And my favorite:
From bearing 1,000 mommy kisses to puckering up and leaning in all on his own.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Why Ethiopia?

It's one of the first questions people have about our adoption journey. Why Ethiopia?

I can tell you it did not start out that way. Brian says we sort of had the Forrest Gump Experience:  we just kept finding ourselves at different crossroads and we'd take one -- which would lead to the next and then the next. In the beginning, both of us felt that if we could help a child in our own backyard, so to speak, that would be best. (Sometimes we need to quit kidding ourselves that we actually have a clue what's best!)

In the summer of 2010, I attended an informational meeting about domestic adoptions. What I learned is that closed adoptions are almost non-existent. "Closed"means that the mother relinquishes all rights and identity and there is no contact once the adoption is finalized. Now what is common is that a birth mother will review a set of scrapbooks -- glorified marketing tools, if you will -- that have beautiful photographs of an adoptive family with lots of text describing why that family would be a perfect fit to raise her baby.  She chooses which family and she chooses the agreement about how much contact there will be.

When I talked with the director of the program after the meeting and told her briefly of our situation she said, "If this is what you feel led to do, don't let me talk you out of it. However, I feel I should tell you that in the 12 years I've worked here, I've never seen a birth mother choose a couple who had three birth children already."  Hmmm....

It began to become clear to me. Many of the couples in that room had no children and in fact had many failed attempts at fertility treatments over many, many years. I knew in my heart, if I were a birth mother reviewing the stories, I wouldn't choose me either.

So we took the lady's recommendation and went next door to the international adoption meeting.  At the time, our agency worked with maybe a half dozen countries. Each country's program had different requirements and policies.  For instance, to adopt from the Philippines, you must be part Filipino. News flash: we are not. Columbia requires you to live in-country for 6 - 9 weeks. We had three small children and Granddaddy at the time. Some countries only adopt out special needs children or older children. We just didn't feel like that was right for us. (Brian's heart is much bigger than mine, so by "we," I mean "I.") Due to corruption and the massive earthquake, Guatemala and Haiti had stopped their adoption programs all together. In reviewing their criteria and ours, we narrowed it down to Ethiopia.

Through subsequent education, we've learned much about adoption, our country, Ethiopia, our families and each other.

Our Country

"It seems to me, there are an awful lot of babies in need right here in our country," she said.

Yes, well since the proliferation of birth control pills and the Roe v. Wade decision, those numbers aren't nearly what you think they would be. There are many statistics out there, so I hope you'll do your own research. This from an American Progress article: "Abortion certainly played some role in the initial decline of the adoption rate when it fell from 19.2 percent for white women in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided to 3.2 percent 15 years later."

And this pie chart from a 2010 Guttmacher Institute profile really stood out to me. What does that make my chances of adopting one of those 14,000?

Our Family and Friends

"If that money were sent directly to the orphanage, think what a difference it could make," they nodded at each other.

Yes! I ask -- so, is your $30,000 check in the mail?

"Aren't you worried about raising a black child in a white family?" asked a blue million people.

I think about the many challenges in parenting and find I could be worried about a lot of things. I know that helping my children be proud of who they are NOT by the world's standards is at the very top of the list. I want them to be known for their kindness, generosity, hospitality, gentleness, love and joy. In that, he will be learning just like my white kids. (This topic deserves many, many blog posts on its own and perhaps, some day, they will come.)


Let me tell you what I knew about Ethiopia before this journey: they had a massive famine when I was in elementary school and we told ridiculous jokes about it. That is quite literally all I knew.

I learned that estimates currently waver somewhere between 3 and 5 million orphans there, because of political unrest (did you know it was under communist rule for almost 20 years? -- that's after having fought back Mussolini time after time in the first half of the 20th century) and the HIV/AIDS crisis (did you know that while we had access to life-saving medications, due to patent laws and other craziness, they did not?) Let me put the zeros on that: 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 orphans. I'm not sure it matters which number is more accurate. Compare that to the 14,000 number in the pie chart.

I learned that Ethiopia has one of the lowest number of physicians per unit of population in the world, so their child mortality rate is staggering. By the year 2010 there was only 1 doctor per 25,000 population, a figure far below the African average of 1 doctor per 5000. Compare that to 1 doctor per 300 people in America.

I learned that the Queen of Sheba hailed from Ethiopia.  (Do you know how many times I've referenced her over the years?  Mostly in wanting to be treated like her.  GRIN.)

I learned it's just below Egypt -- the very edge of the Middle East as we know it. And yet, so far outside everything else as we know it.

I also learned that they love their children -- including the orphans. They are not put 3 - 4 to a crib and tossed a bottle to fight over. They are not turned out when they are ten to live on the streets. They are swaddled, cuddled, smiled at, played with, fed well and clothed.

I read two great books about Ethiopia. One is about the orphan crisis specifically, There Is No Me Without You and one is just a great novel called Cutting for Stone, about a set of twins who grow up in Ethiopia to be surgeons.

I never thought I'd voluntarily set foot on the African continent, yet here we are weeks away from going the second time to bring our son home.

I guess I end up answering, "Why Ethiopia?" with, "Why not?" There is a need and I can help. Our path has led this way. Where is your path leading you?


Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Letter to Sammie

I'm not good at words of affirmation. I wonder if my friends realize this about me? I can encourage in short bursts. So, if we only chat on the phone every now and then or I only see you a few times a week, you may not know this. 

It's become abundantly clear to me as I parent: I see what needs to be fixed or improved and usually only comment about that. Regular, specific words of encouragement are REEEEEAALLLYYY hard for me.  (I'm sure that was apparent to Brian long before we had kids!)

Anyway, we've really struggled with Sammie the last few weeks. She's so kind and forgiving and sharing to everyone outside our home, but has little patience or respect for those inside our home.  She knows the way to behave, words to say or not say. I'm seeing more and more that what she truly thrives on, I'm quite horrible at giving. How can I fill in that gap? So, I've been praying about what to do. Since I'm much better and writing my thoughts than speaking them, I decided to write her a letter spelling out the qualities I love about her. 

Dear Sammie,                                                September 18, 2013
      I wanted to write in black and white, for you to keep forever, how much I love you.
      I know you feel like we only point out what’s wrong or what you need to work on. We’ve tried to explain until we’re tired of hearing ourselves talk that it’s part of our job. I believe that is true, but I know I can do much better at reminding you of all the things you do well and encouraging you in all of your gifts and talents – of which there are many! I really am working on saying more positive things than pointing out corrections. Please be patient with me as I try to consistently grow in this way.
      You really are such an amazing blessing to me and to our whole family. You have such a generous spirit; always wanting to make things or do things for your friends. When this quality spills into your brother and sister, it’s like a sweet perfume filling our home.
      I don’t know why I still shake my head in amazement at your creative ability in the kitchen! You’ve been this way since you were a little, little girl. Always wanting to stir, add something else, try some new combination of foods. That boldness in experimenting will serve you well in life. I expect to see you on the cover of a cookbook someday! Sammie’s Sumptuous Suppers!
      When you create a new lotion, face scrub or lip gloss, I wonder, “Will she grow up to make women all over the world feel beautiful?” What a precious, precious gift! When you build a doll bed out of duct tape and cereal boxes or form an entire miniature Italian meal out of modeling clay, I wonder, “Will Sammie grow up to bring joy to young girls and their love for dolls and all things small?” That too, would make me so proud.
      Many people say, and have said since you were tiny, “She looks just like you.” And I’ve noticed as you’ve grown into the sweet young lady that you are, that you are like me in many ways. (Good and bad – sorry about that.) You and I can bless our friends in big ways by doing small acts of kindness and in the very next moment, snap at those dearest to us because our selfishness rears its ugly head. I imagine we’ll both have to work on that the rest of our lives.
      When you were 5, you sang “The B-I-B-L-E” at three different services in our huge church. I knew then you were gifted musically. Then, about five years later, I remember the first time I heard you singing, when you didn’t know I was listening. You weren’t singing to impress anyone. Just singing a meaningful song, from your heart, the very best you could. I got teary-eyed at your pure tone and sweet voice. The ease with which you’ve picked up piano, coupled with your sense of timing and pitch, make me wonder what God will do with these precious gifts. Do you ever wonder?
      Your outer-beauty should probably go without mentioning, but I can’t help it. You’ve been given your father’s beautiful eyes and you look so much like my mother when I look at pictures from way back then. It’s truly uncanny. Your quirky fashion sense only serves to enhance what God gave you naturally.
      What a treasure you are!  I’ll never say it enough, I know. But I hope to remind you more and more, so you believe it from the inside out.
                                    I love you,

As I lay in bed last night, I thought of all the things I should've added. Like her graceful athleticism and sheer smarts at her age are impressive to me. I figured the world will boost her ego enough on those fronts, but also realized these messages could become a regular part of my encouragement to her.

I'll ask her in 20 years if it mattered to her.

Are there gaps in your parenting style that your kids really need to thrive? 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What'd You Do Today?

I tell my kids all the time, "Don't be a hater."  Well, I use this word as honestly as I can. I really hate it when someone asks, "What did you do today?" Not that I don't want to answer. Not that I really did "nothing." It's just sometimes easier to keep it simple. Then, of course, you run the risk of sounding like you really do sit around eating bon bons. (What are bon bons, anyway?)

I can truly see why the kids often answer that question with, "Nothing."  It's just too hard to explain it all. Moms really do want to hear the details of their child's day, but does anyone really want to hear the details of a mom's day?

Monday, my plan had six simple things on it:

1) Clean porch.
2) Water newly-planted flowers.
3) Place final three bags of mulch.
4) Clean the kitchen.
5) Mop floors.
6) Make cobbler and ice cream for book club.

Instead of checking off my "to do" list, I got a wild hair and kept a "done did it" list.

My list doesn't really start until the kids get on the bus, but you know we do a passel of work to get them from bed to bus stop!

After that I:

1) Made Granddaddy's follow-up appointments from Friday's foot procedure.
2) Informed Grandaddy of his follow-up appointments. (He can't hear in person much less over the phone, so this takes way longer than you might think.)
3) Started first batch of ice cream.
4) Enrolled kids in their gymnastics classes on-line. (Helped gym discover their on-line enrollment glitches, so this also takes longer than you might think.)
5) Checked bank account to see if Homeland Security check has cleared so I can call immigration and nudge them along with our 3rd re-fingerprinting appointment. (No luck.)
6) Began cleaning paint splotches off porch. (Because no matter how many drop cloths you have, when you paint with children under 10 -- or Brian -- you will get paint where you don't intend to.)
7) Ran to answer phone (with some urgency since immigration should contact us soon) and spent the next ten minutes explaining to Grandaddy that THURSDAY is the 22nd and his appointment is not Tuesday.  But you said 8 and 22. Yes, I said that. But tomorrow is the 21st. No, it's the 20th, but you don't have an appointment tomorrow, you have it Thursday. But that's not the 22nd. Yes it is.  8 and 22. Yes. So, tomorrow is the 22nd? No, Thursday is the 22. Just go on like that for another ten minutes and you've got the gist.
8) Finished cleaning paint splotches.
9) Visited with good friend who only had a few precious minutes and I gladly gobbled them up!
10) Watered plants and put away hose.
11) Placed final three bags of mulch.
12) Started 2nd batch of ice cream.
13) Washed Chase's baseball uniform. (Always amazed at how dirty an 8 year-old boy can get.)
14) Returned something to storage room in basement and realized dehumidifier needed to be emptied. 15) Emptied humidifier.
16) Made giant Greek salad for lunch.
17) Watched 30 minutes of Adult Attachment Style training for our adoption education hours. (Realized I am an "entangled/dismissive" style and immediately begged for more grace and mercy to parent in a way so as not to ruin my children forever.)
18) Emptied trash. (Realized trash drawer was disgusting, so cleaned the trash drawer.)
19) Cleaned dining room table. (Realized all the kids' chairs were disgusting, so cleaned the chairs too.)
20) Swept and mopped kitchen and dining room. (It was so disgusting, I mopped twice.)
21) Took a shower and dressed. Decided to do my own manicure/pedicure. You're welcome, Brian. (Waiting for everything to dry was the longest 20 minutes of my life!)
22) Cleaned fridge doors of the 8 photos, 7 pieces of art, 6 reminders (from last year), 5 strands of chore/electronics clips, 4 square feet of hand smudges, 3 assorted schedules/calendars, 2 turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.
23) Made peach cobbler for book club (to go with said ice cream.)
24) 4:15 kids got off bus. I focused on getting Chase started on a large snack (i.e. dinner)/homework/uniform donning/baseball gear gathering.
24) Then focused on getting the girls dinner/homework and lunches packed for the next day.
25) Made cucumber/cracker snacks and set up for book club.
26) Laughed until my sides hurt hosting book club.
27) I read for the last hour of the day. (Orphan Train, if you're interested.)

Tuesday seemed like it would be a treat, since I "only" had laundry to do. (When I recover from Tuesday's actual laundry trauma, maybe I'll write about it.)

So, don't feel too badly when the kids say they did "nuthin'" at school. We all know the truth.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

School Fears

As my kids enter their second week of school, the real concerns about this adventure begin to surface.

Like any mom, I wonder if the new friends they make will be a positive influence or a negative influence. I wonder if they'll trade the healthy lunch we packed for someone else's chips and Oreos. I wonder if they will be bullied on the playground or will they turn into bullies.

As a homeschool mom, I'm concerned about whether I focused on enough of the "right" things. I focused on what I felt was important at a pace that worked for each of my kids, but that doesn't mean it will translate to where they are in a public school. How soon will they be able to tell that I spent more time on teaching my son to read than teaching him to spell?  Maybe 5th graders are already supposed to know geometry, when we spent a lot of last year doing fractions. Will my children single-handedly cause an investigation of the entire homeschool community?

I have absolutely loved hearing their stories at the end of the day -- what they liked, what they didn't, who's really goofy and what new friends they made. They raved about their teachers -- especially Sammie.

"Mr. May let us have snack as part of our activity!" Chase said.

"Ms. Cobb said I went above and beyond as a helper today," from Ava.

Sammie ran in Friday and said, "Mom, you've GOT to see this video Mrs. Publow plays for us every day."

Then it occurred to me what my biggest fear of all is with this public school experiment:

I'm afraid they'll like their teachers more than me.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why Public School Now?

At the end of each school year I wonder, "Should we homeschool next year?"  We take stock of how it went, what's working, what's a total bust. 

All of last year THIS school year was on my mind. We didn't know what age our new little person would be, nor did we have a clue about his background. If his needs were great, I wondered if this would be our year to have the big kids in public school. I wondered if I'd be able to handle nurturing a young one with a hard history and teaching three different grades. (And if ALL that happened to him was to be transferred from his birth mom's arms to my arms, THAT would be big trauma to deal with! It's rarely that simple - if you can call that simple.)

Mind you, we've never been against public school.  We've always felt there are pros and cons to any school situation and I'm so thankful that we have many terrific options in our town. Between "four star" public schools, private schools, several Christan schools and a significant homeschool community, we have amazing support no matter what our choice.

Then we got our referral in May. At the time, a one-year old boy who'd been in two orphanages already in his short life. Now we knew -- a toddler would come home sometime before Christmas. Joy set in, along with mild panic.  I was leaning toward public school even then, but my kids said they WANTED to stay at home. Ava was tired of getting up early every day and "doing the same thing all the time." Chase had NEVER wanted to go to public school (something about being finished by noon and getting to play the rest of the day and eating whenever he wanted.) And even Sammie had gotten the bug out of her system when she saw all the rules Ava had to follow. (Like only eating one time a day and having to pay attention and follow instructions for 7 hours a day!)

So how'd we end up waiting for the bus to pick them up for our little country school yesterday?

Two fairly simple (yet not so simple) things.

One: I sat down to dinner about a month to all three of my kids saying they wanted to go to public school. All three.  You've got to know by now, that I believe some things are just not explainable. Some things that don't come from us. It seemed out of nowhere and totally bowled me over!  Ava confessed she really did like it and would get to be with her BFF. Chase said, "We get recess every day and we won't have really long math!"  (We will be defining "rude awakening" any day now.) And Sammie calmly explained that she'd just like to try it. "I've been homeschooled all along and I just want to see what it's like." I was secretly relieved that her answer wasn't something like, "I fear I'm really not going to like you if we have to spend one more full day together."

Two: as I stewed over all these things -- their hearts plus the feelings I already had -- we got notice to travel for our court trip. My decision was made after our first trip to the orphanage. We spent two hours in a room full of about 15 toddlers. Seven or eight beds on either side of the room -- and nothing else. Nothing. We watched the nannies bring in clothes and change the children one by one in that room. We watched them bring in food and feed them on the floor one by one in that room. We asked if they had toys. They brought out two balls. One was gripped by a little boy the entire time while the rest of the kids played/tried to share/fought with the other one. Because it's the rainy season there, they don't go out to play. It occurred to me in that moment, that our Little Man had probably not ever been out of that room. Prior to this orphanage, he was only crawling, so I'm fairly certain he hadn't left that room either.

Yes, my big kids will be fine in public school. They have a new adventure: learning in ways and about things they simply couldn't in my dining room. Because it was their desire, I won't have Mom-guilt about feeling like I "sent them away."

And I'll be able to spend the next 180 days helping Eyob believe that he matters to SOMEONE more than anything in this world.  That there is someone -- a handful of someones right in these four walls -- that will drop everything to change his clothes when he's dirty, feed him when he's hungry, hold him when he cries, play pat-a-cake and sing songs with him when he's happy.

Or kick a ball -- a whole LOT of balls if he wants.


Monday, August 5, 2013

He's Not Home Yet

I've realized by some of the comments coming in that we haven't been clear on our next steps. Little Man is not home yet.

The process is such that we travel two times to Ethiopia. The first to appear before a judge attesting to the fact that we met the child, accept the child and pledge our commitment to raise this child as our own. That's what we did last week. It allows our names to be put on a birth certificate, which then allows for a U.S. passport to be prepared. THEN, we are invited to travel the second time.

We don't get to bring him home until that next visit -- what we all call "the Embassy trip." Yes, I said, "embassy," -- as in,

"19 US posts to remain closed this week as lawmakers say terror threat 'specific' and 'serious.'"

Those embassies are in the Middle East and North Africa.  I never realized how close Ethiopia is to the Middle East until we began to make flight arrangements a couple of weeks ago.  One of our layovers was in Dubai -- where the U.S. Embassy is now closed for the week.

(As an aside, we also received a rejection when we returned for some U.S. government forms that weren't filled out properly, so that will be a further unexpected delay.)

I'd be flat out lying if I said these things didn't give me cause for concern. Of all the places in the world for there to be trouble. Of all the times in history for threats to spike. I'm sure the militants have their reasons, but I know they haven't a clue that the fate of a roomful of precious babies is in their hands.

No, wait. I know that's not true.  There are a lot of things I don't know. Things I'm not sure of -- so I HAVE to cling to what I know to be true. Otherwise, I'd lose what's left of my little mind.

Here's what I know, that know: God is faithful to complete what He starts.

I don't believe it was coincidence that when I learned of the terrorist threats I was studying the life of Abraham -- specifically, the beginning of his journey when God called him to come out of Ur. God didn't lay out all the steps, the hills and valleys that he'd travel, but we have the privilege of seeing the complete unfolding of his story. The entire point of that day's lesson was this: when God takes the initiative, He brings to completion all that is on His heart. God is not only the beginning (the Alpha,) but also the ending (Omega.)

I learned an old Gospel song a long time ago that has a line like this:

I know not what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.

That's what I'll cling to in these coming weeks. I don't know the end of this story, but God does.

"For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

He's just got to.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

What's In A Name?


There is tremendous pressure in naming a child. The first-born may be slightly easier since there are family namesakes to consider or that one name you've dreamed of your entire life. But then you remember you're married and he thinks he gets an opinion too. Drat.

Our newest addition is named Eyob. It means "Job."  Bible names are extremely common in Ethiopia and in fact, we met other Eyobs while we were there.

It's an interesting debate whether to give him an American name to go by or to keep his Ethiopian name.  I could make a case either way.  In our university town ethnic names are on every street.  And as I joked with a friend of mine yesterday (who subs in the local high school) someone who pronounces her name Carrie is just as likely to spell it something like Xahryes. (Hard "x" and the "s" being silent, of course.)

I found it difficult enough to name our birth kids. For me, someone who reads a ton and has a thing for lyrics, it was very important to have a name that rolled off the tongue naturally. It has to SOUND like it goes together.  With a last name like Arnold, many German, Danish or Austrian first names connected. Not so much Irish, Czech, Asian or let's say....Ethiopian.

I also wonder (or should I say worry?) about our little guy having to adjust to many, many things in his life as that black kid in the white family. Will he want to explain his name every time he's introduced to someone new? A veteran adoptive family said, "You just teach him to say, 'That's my Ethiopian name.'" Could it be that easy?

My name, Kristin, means Christ-follower. Did my parents know that when they named me? I don't know. Was it a hope they had for my life? I don't know. But it has turned out to be true.

The first lines of the Book of Job say this: "Job was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion."

Yes, we want that said of all our children.

Later, in the Book of James (written by Jesus' half-brother,) he is encouraging the Jewish Christians to be patient when treated unjustly. The Message version says it this way: "Take the old prophets as your mentors, they put up with anything, went through everything and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You've heard, of course, of Job's staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him in the end. That's because God cares, cares right down to the last detail." 

Is a name considered a detail? 

The staying power of Job. Bible scholars or not, we've all heard of the "patience of Job."  No one has ever heard of the "patience of Kristin." Maybe that's one of the things our Little Man will get from his Ethiopian Mom.

Everyone keeps asking if we will keep Eyob's name or give him an American name to go by. We, truthfully, haven't decided. (Well, I've decided and Brian's decided, we just haven't decided the same thing, yet!) GRIN.

If we keep it as Eyob, then may it come with a prayer that he will be honest inside and out, a man of his word, who is totally devoted to God and hates evil with a passion. A man who doesn't quit. A man with staying power.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Same Kind of Different

When we landed in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, Brian and I were literally the only white people in the airport. And so it began. The thousand differences between me and well....everything else.

The smells were different -- strong and pungent. The sounds were different -- a strange language and trilling tongues going a mile a minute. The music loud and dissonant. The sights were like a flashback in a movie -- scene change after scene change -- some understandable, most not. The kind you hope to understand at the very, very end, but then still don't.

I lost weight because the food was so different -- the bread spongy, the drinks warm, the stew mushy, the coffee harsh. I was so anxious that much of the time I didn't even want to eat, even though the smiling strangers kept shoving tray after tray of native food before me.

I found myself so overwhelmed at times that to keep from succumbing to a meltdown of tears, I had to take my mind to another place. I had to disconnect emotionally to keep from losing it entirely.

When strangers hugged me, I was not really comforted.

I wanted to go home.

I wanted my mom.

As crazy as it sounds, I am so thankful I had that experience. It gave me the tiniest glimpse of what our son will experience when he comes home. I was there one week and fought back tears on a regular basis. What would it be like if I could never go back to what I knew?

Only God knows how long it will take for our little guy to experience his new life with joy. Having a taste of that "same kind of different" may be the most important key to loving him well.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Day We Met

Think about the day you saw your newborn for the first time. Nine-month pregnancy and a few black and white sonograms as some kind of preparation. Then add a three-year pregnancy and a few across-the-world photos to that anticipation. We had no idea really what to expect when we met our little guy.

They brought us into the toddler room -- 15 kids and 4 nannies. We were able to spend two hours there. (Imagine being a sub in two services of Sunday school with toddlers.)  Then imagine that room with no toys and no chairs. NO chairs. That means no rocking chairs. Turns out that's not an Ethiopian thing...rocking chairs. Huh. The drapes were closed, the lights weren't on, the floors were bare...only little toddler-like beds.

At first, the nannies brought our little guy to us, standing him before us like an offering. At the same time, another little boy ran up to us, we thought for a big hug, since his hands were outstretched. Turns out, he smacked our cheeks rather hard with both hands.  Huh. When the nannies scolded him, he sat down at the end of the bed frame and began to just bang his head over and over again. Disturbing enough as it was, the nannies didn't rush to stop that action. Huh. One little boy sat off in the corner and just watched everything. Not crying. Not laughing. Not playing. Not engaging. Still others reached up for us to hold them and play with them and make them laugh the entire time.

Little Man was somewhere in between. At first, he just stood there looking at us. Intensely. No tears, no frown, no smile. Just looking. The cartoon bubble over his head might have said, "Who are you? Why are you here? And, why do you keep looking at me with a hyena-like smile that looks like you're ready to eat me whole?"

It was at least 30 minutes before they brought us a ball -- the universal language of little boys. (Big boys too!)

Then the smile came. Tentatively and not often, but it was there. He never cried when we picked him up, but he never laughed either. I wish I'd gotten it on video, but Brian does this whispery-thing to babies and when he did it while holding our little guy, that sweet smile came again and again.

Here's a clip of his amazing left-foot kick. You'll see some other little ones that we would've walked out with if they'd let us. Fortunately, we were told, most of them have forever families waiting to take them home soon.

Day One: that's what Little Man thinks. For us, it was day 1,095 going on a lifetime.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More Socks to Come!

I'm leaving six precious feet in the care of loved ones, while Brian and I travel to the other side of the world to say to a judge, "Yes!  We'll take another pair, please."  Think of how many more socks I get to add to our sack! By the grace of God and his perfect timing, I have a few minutes to write.

It's been three years and one month since we sent our first set of documents in to get this adoption started. And today we fly. There were definitely times of frustration at the lengthy process, but we've learned so much about ourselves, our birth children and the time in preparation has proved invaluable.  We needed every second to live the life God set before us.

My close friends know how adept I am at hiding my anxieties. However, I can only do that up to a certain point, then I begin to pace ruts in the floor!  So, as soon as the news of our court date came, I notified a handful of people who have clearly been praying their own little socks off for me.  What an incredible peace. We ONLY had a week's notice, yet it seemed like plenty of time as things fell into place for the kids and our packing and all the thousand details that must come together for such a thing.

I have my moments, of course. Like when my sweet hubby is on a conference call in his pajamas without having packed a stitch two hours before we're to leave for the airport. Deep breathes as he reminded me that he had plenty of time and he's never missed a flight. (Except that once, which he swears was a fluke.)

We won't get to bring him home for another couple of months and I'd love to tell you more about our little guy, but until the court hearing is complete, it's unwise. Let's just say, he looks just like me.  ;)

Our prayer list is too long to write here, but if you think of any of us --  Brian, Kristin, Granddaddy, Sammie, Chase, Ava and our new little man -- pray for wisdom, protection and for our faith to grow.

If any internet connection at all is found, I'll try to write again.