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Ethiopia is forever in my heart…

Can’t believe October is almost over. I am terrible about this blog thing…like really terrible. One month leads into another and before I know it Christmas is around the corner again.

I will give a quick recap of the last 6 months. School started back with a bang. Ali is a junior and working hard to keep her GPA up. She finished up her sophomore year with a 3.8 GPA. She takes the ACT for the first time in December…she’s not thrilled about that prospect. We wanted to allow plenty of time for her to retake it down the road. I can’t believe before long she will be researching colleges and majors and…I think I will go cry now. She has an idea what direction she wants to go, but has to decide exactly what she wants to do with it. Next in the line up is Hana…she is doubling up with school this year and trying to complete 2nd and 3rd grade all this year. We would like her to be ready for 4th grade next fall. She loves school so I think she has a good chance of being ready. Clark is in 2nd grade and doing fine. School doesn’t come as easily as it does for Ali and Hana…but he manages with the challenges that he has. He continues to meet with a tutor every other week to help with his reading skills. Living with dyslexia will always be a challenge. Haile started doing kindergarten work this year. I believe he will do well with school.

Ali is still swimming all the time. We were blessed with the opportunity to join a brand new homeschool high school swim league that is competing against local public high schools. She is loving it. All of her friends from her year around team were on their local high school swim teams and she felt she was missing out. This was a perfect fit. She is starting to get to know the other kids. They had their first meet this Saturday. God is so good to send things our way when he knows we need them. Ali is so happy to be on this new team…the HCYA Warriors (Houston Homeschool Christian Youth Association). The downside is that Houston is so HUGE and we live south of town. All the meets are an hour away. Oh well, it is worth the drive to see her in her element. It is so refreshing for her to NOT have to explain and have people ask questions about her being homeschooled.

Hana is taking dance again this year. It is a homeschool class and the teacher is fabulous. She loves it. It’s a combo ballet/tap/jazz class. We hope that we can find time in our schedules for her to play soccer eventually. She would love to.

Clark is at the gym all the time. He trains 12 hours a week, but loves every minute of it. Competition season begins soon.

Haile had been taking a gymnastics class for months. We wanted him to improve with listening to the teacher and participating. He made great strides and ended up actually doing quite well. We pulled him out of the class for a while so that he can play soccer. He has had about 3 games so far.

So that’s the quick version for you. As you can imagine, we stay very busy. It usually takes TC and I both to pull off all the practices. Ali will be ready for her drivers license in the spring, so that will help. She got her permit a little bit late so she can’t get her license until a couple of month after she turns 16. She loves to drive, so I get chauffeured quite a bit. :)

I wanted to blog about my recent trip to Ethiopia….more for my own memory. This was my 3rd trip. My friend, Kristy, went with me. She lives in Ohio and she and her husband adopted from Ethiopia last year also. We were gone for 12 days, but spent one night in Dubai on the way there. When we were in Dubai we took a desert tour out in the sand dunes. I had taken the same tour twice before, but it is amazing every time!! The next day we headed out early for the airport to catch our flight to Addis Ababa. The 4 hour flight to Addis felt like nothing considering the 15 hour flight we had endured the previous day. (and I don’t sit still well…like at all…so that flight is painful for me!!)

Once we got into Addis, we got settled into our room at the guest house. (Ethiopia Guest Home,  just in case anyone was planning a trip to Ethiopia anytime soon haha) I can’t say enough great things about that guest house. Anyway, our friends and connection to the Kore community came to our guest house for dinner. Their names are Tesfaye and Helen. Tesfaye grew up in the Kore community (around the city trash dump) and he now knows the Lord has called him to minister to the people there. They married this past year and are such a wonderful couple. Tesfaye has so much love and compassion for his community that it’s so inspiring. That night we discussed our weekly schedule and what all we would be doing.

The following morning Tesfaye met us at the guest house and we took all public transportation back to Kore. It was such a great experience and saved us a lot of money in the process. It is cheap to ride public transportation…but $10 an hour to hire a driver from the guest house….that’s a no brainer.  We got to ride in the Ethiopian blue vans (let me explain…small 10 passenger vans….crammed with anywhere from 15-21 passengers! Awesome! I laughed so much through all of those rides. We also rode in a bijaj several times. (small 3 wheel jobs like they use in India, etc.) Once we made it to Kore we had a lovely craft time with about 90 children from Tesfaye’s church. We read a Bible story, handed out coloring pages, and also made paper bag puppets. The children had a blast and we LOVED watching them. What amazed me was how the older ones helped the younger ones. After our craft time, we headed out to start spending all the wonderful money that friends and family donated to this community. God ended up blessing us with $1700. Amazing!!! We spent about $800 on baby formula for children in his church, he was then going to buy some tarps to repair the church “roof”, buy some additional plastic chairs for church, repair the toilet area (it was a squatty potty and was broken into about 5 pieces and the small children were having difficulty balancing on the broken pieces), $300 was given to Helen to help them with hospital expenses (she is pregnant and due in March…being able to afford a hospital birth is almost impossible), and he also was able to take a 2 year old child with pneumonia to the hospital and buy her medication. The money was such a huge blessing to them and their church. Thank you so much to everyone that gave.

The next day was so humbling that I will never forget it. We attended Tesfaye’s church. God taught me that even though we didn’t speak the same language that we serve the same amazing God. Those people love the Lord and it is so evident. We have much to learn from them. Tesfaye told me something to this effect when I gave him the money…this building doesn’t matter, the people matter, and we will use the money to help my church people. Isn’t that the truth? In America we spend so much money and put so much importance into our church buildings….millions and millions is spent on it every year. For what? To impress those that walk through the doors? What true difference is it making for eternity? I digress….    After we attended church we went with Tesfaye a 2 other men in his congregation to make home visits. We were blessed to get to visit with 6 families in all shapes and sizes. One beautiful family consisted of a husband and wife that both suffered from leprosy. They have both lost both legs and most fingers. They have 2 absolutely gorgeous children. They have resulted to having to beg due to the inability to work. Another older lady has been in bed for 18 years. Can you fathom that…18 years? They tied a chicken in her bed to keep her company. Another family was a sit of spunky twin 5 year old girls and their 9 year old sister. Their parents drink often and don’t properly care for them. They lost their hut some months back and now live in a stick and tarp (and anything else they can find to protect them from the elements) little make shift house. We visited them several times in our week stay. They stole our hearts. Those precious girls would climb the stick structure and we were reminded that kids are the same whether in opulent America or in the slums of Africa! Tesfaye works for an organization called “Adoption Ministry 127″ Click it and check it out if you are so inclined. They still need quite a few families sponsored. It is $40 a month and it is very similar to Compassion International. A lot of the people are widows…so it is not just sponsoring children. It provides rent money, basic staples, soap, etc. It is a wonderful opportunity to bless someones life. It changes lives! I saw it…I got to hear the stories. The families are so grateful for the sponsorship. My friend, Kristy, got the meet the child she sponsors. I’m reminded yet again of the money we waste and how easily it would be to scrape together $40 a month. Skip a night of eating out, a movie, Starbucks, etc.

On day 3 in Ethiopia we were able to work with Mission Ethiopia. It is a program that the guest house started. They provide employment for mostly widows. They make jewelry, belts, artwork, rugs, etc…then sell them to mission groups that come through. It provides income to people that couldn’t find employment. We worked with a small team to set up a “jewelry store” to showcase their items. It turned out great and was a lot of fun. We also were able to help serve lunch to a large group of school children through Project 61. I got to spend a lot of that day loving on kiddos that came through. It’s amazing what a simple hug, touch, hand holding will do for a child. Just writing about it makes me want to book another flight…seriously.

Day 4 was a first for us…….watched the slaughtering of a sheep. Yuck..yuck..yuck..not enjoyable. Kristy provided lunch for all of the children in the congregation. We helped feed 150 children. We bought a live sheep (actually put it in the trunk of the taxi..imagine this..listening to the bah bah bahs all the way back!!) So many volunteers in the church cooked such a lovely meal for the children.

Day 5 was a special coffee ceremony with the widows of the church. We loved on babies, had coffee, and spoke a little with Tesfaye translating. We also were able to get the little twins registered for kindergarten. Kristy and I decided to sponsor the twins for kinder so that they will not be home alone all day. Guess the cost……………..$16 a month. That’s it, for 2 children. It could potentially make a huge difference in their lives. So once they were registered we were off to buy school supplies and uniforms. It was all worth it when we saw their excitement and pride when they carried their new backpacks. God is good. And God is there in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia…and in the slums of Kore. God is there. Tesfaye reminded us that God planned this before the foundation of the world. When I would tear up and have my heart broken yet again, he reminded me of this truth. God is there. He is real. I don’t understand it. But I don’t have to. He’s just called me to love them…and show them that people love them. It’s hard. It’s so easy to question the poverty..and the how and why and it’s not fair. But, then that’s questioning God. So I will love them.

Day 6 we took for a fun day. We were kind of numb and exhausted. We hired a friend of ours, Yonatan (whom we both met on our first trips to Ethiopia and have kept in touch with since then), to take us to a town about an hour away called Debre Zeyit. It has a town with about 5 lakes. Gorgeous! We spent several hours at a resort right on one of the lakes. We had lunch, went kayaking, checked out the spa, etc. We took Helen along to spoil her for a day. (she isn’t able to do such things usually) We made her get a manicure at the spa and she was so thrilled. She was happy all day…LOVE! When we returned to Addis we had Yonatan help us shop a little at an area called the “post office”…a bunch of small shops in a row. It was such a fun day.

Day 7 was our last full day in Ethiopia. We were fighting tears most of the day as we weren’t really ready to say goodbye. We went to Kore one last time, said goodbye to our twins, and then we were invited to Tesfaye and Helen’s home for coffee, a meal, and exchanged little gifts. It was such a blessing and wonderful way to end our week. We were able to meet Tesfaye’s mother, brother, and sister. I have told Tesfaye and Helen that I now count them as part of my family and they said I was apart of theirs. My Ethiopian family forever!

Kristy and I are already starting to talk about TC and her husband, Britton, going to Ethiopia next year. With 7 children between us..it’s the easiest way to do it. The guys can do more physical work that Kristy and I weren’t able to do. They will be such a blessing to that community. God willing it will work out. So if you weren’t able to donate to the Kore community for my trip..there’s always next year!! :)

Here is a slideshow that TC made of some of my pictures.
click here

Here are some photos since my last post…

October 29, 2012   1 Comment

Live like that…

I’m going to dust off the cyber cobwebs and attempt a blog post after many months. Goodness, can’t believe I haven’t blogged since February!

So why the title? Well one of my FAVORITE songs right now is by Sidewalk Prophets called Live Like That! Check it out…HERE!!!

It’s going to be my theme song as I go back to Africa!! You read that right. As of right now, a friend and I are going back to Ethiopia in October. We are working on nailing down all the travel plans. This time…I’m not going for an adoption. No, I’m going to go back to the place that has been in my heart since I first stepped foot on the grounds. I’m going back to the area of Korah, Ethiopia in Addis Ababa to do some volunteer work. I sent out an email this week about an opportunity for you to partner with me as I go back. My friend and I are trying to raise funds to help orphans, widows, and single mothers. If you are interested in joining in, please let me know. I want to stress that 100% of the funds raised will go to help the Ethiopians! My friend, Kristy, and I are paying our own travel expenses. I am NOT asking for money to help pay my way. Please understand that. We are going to be working with a pastor to the Korah community and loving on the children of his congregation. To say this area is poor, is an understatement. Here are some links for you to learn a little more of where we will be and a couple of the organizations we hope to be involved in.
Project 61
Mission Ethiopia

I will attemp to recap the past 4 months. We finally finished our school year. In Aug. we will have an 11th grader, two 2nd graders, and a kindergartner. Hana and Haile are coming along very nicely in their ability to speak the English language. It just takes time! Haile tests his boundaries constantly and perhaps that goes with the territory of being the youngest. Parenting is non stop training of those little hearts. Always attempting to point them to the cross and their and our need for forgiveness. Hana is very strongwilled and has an extremely strong personality. We are constantly trying to keep that in check.

Aside from finishing school, we are trying to enjoy the summer. (even in the 100+ temps) We went to Indiana in May to introduce Hana and Haile to their Indiana cousins. We spent several days at the family lake house and enjoyed watching the children play, swim, make snow cones, blow bubbles, fish, and make wonderful memories. We don’t get to see them all very often, so when we do the children have a great time. On the way to Indiana we made a stop in Hot Springs, Arkansas for a few days. Had a great time letting the children fish right outside of our hotel room, visiting the bath houses, seeing the hot springs, picnic, etc. We were also able to have lunch with one of my aunts and a cousin that I had not seen in years…what a treat!

A couple of months ago we had Hana and Haile baptized at our church. It was such a nice ceremony. They wore traditional Ethiopian clothing that we brought back from our November trip. We were concerned with how Haile would handle being in front of the congregation so we tried to really prepare him in advance of what would be happening. We quickly realized that we perhaps prepared him too much when from the start of the service he asked (a million times)…”preacher done, water now?” Haha!

We have had quite a few hospital/clinic/orthopedic visits since I last blogged. Clark fell off of he high bar at gym and missed the mat. Needless to say, he fractured his wrist just days before his last meet of the season. We waited until after the meet to see the orthopedic. His gym coach taped up his arm, modified his routines, and he competed!! He came in 4th overall despite a fractured wrist. He is a trooper. But come Monday, on went the cast. He was out of gym for 4 weeks with the exception of going to stretch. It healed just fine though. Thought/hoped we were done with doctors for a while until last Wednesday a freak thing happened and he got a concussion. I took the children to one of those inflatable bouncy house places and he bumped heads with another boy while in mid air. He didn’t even tell me they hit heads. However, later he started telling me he couldn’t see well…got pale…was extremely tired…vomiting. So a few minutes later I found myself on the way to the pediatricians office where she informed me that he needed to immediately go to ER and that she was about to call an ambulance. I had to convince her that I would leave right then and go straight to the ER. By the time we made it to the ER and they took his vitals, the pediatrician had called and they had him in line for a CT scan. They all feared that he had bleeding in the brain due to the severity of his symptoms. At this point he could not even stay awake. Praise God though, the CT was totally normal. He did have a concussion but there was NO bleeding. We were/are so thankful about that. He was sick the rest of the day, but was feeling better by the next day.

This summer is passing so fast. The children have attended VBS at a friends church, gone on a couple of fieldtrips with the children’s group from church, will have VBS at our church in a couple of weeks, attend a couple of painting classes coming up at Michael’s, etc. Hana took a dance class this week also. Ali has been gone for almost 3 weeks in a row. She attended swim camp at the University of Texas in Austin, attend UM ARMY with the youth at church, and this week she has been in Memphis, TN with my parents and her cousin, Abby. Their Poppy heard that Ali really wanted to go back to Graceland and because she is spoiled rotten…they took them both!!! I’ve really missed her and look forward to her coming home tonight. They had a great time going to Graceland, Sun Studios, and The Peabody Hotel to see the ducks….not to mention they ate some great Memphis barbque! Little jealous about that. :)

My computer time has come to an end. Must get Clark to gymnastics in a few. Will close with a few pictures from the last few months. Before I do I want to mention a book that I think EVERY Christian should read. It is called Radical by David Platt. It has rocked my world and I keep going back to read things I have highlighted. Here is an excerpt… “When we have the courage to look in the faces of brothers and sisters whose bodies are malnourished and whose brains are deformed because they have no food, Christ will change our desires, and we will long to sacrifice our resources for the glory of his name among them.” WOW, right? God has been doing things in my heart and also TC’s heart since we returned from Ethiopia. We don’t know what it means yet. But God has definitely stirred our hearts. Stirred it to the point of knowing that we want more than being satisfied with what our society thinks of as “the American dream”…there is more to life than that. All that stuff just doesn’t matter when we look to eternity. It just doesn’t. And we want our children to know that too. To give up our desires for God’s desires.

June 28, 2012   1 Comment

A day in the life…

I can’t believe it has been so long since I blogged. It might have a little something to do with the title…a day in the life. Life has changed quite a bit since Thanksgiving. Raising 4 kiddos doesn’t leave much time for blogging, that’s for sure. The laundry, cooking, schooling, running to activities, housework, and did I mention laundry? It’s been crazy fun getting used to having a larger family. You might choke if you knew our grocery bill. :) Hana and Haile have settled in quite nicely. They are so resilient and for that I’m so very thankful to our heavenly father. Haile had some issues with meltdowns the first couple of weeks, but those have completely subsided. Now if he cries it is due to very normal circumstances (didn’t get his way, someone took his toy, etc.). He was just so traumatized by all the changes in his young life. Everything overnight was completely different to him…a language he didn’t understand, a new family he didn’t know, and a new home. He is doing so well now. Hana is doing well also. She has a bit of a stubborn streak at times and loves, loves, loves to be in control. We are working on that and she is taking guidance well. She is doing 1st grade with Clark…though she is in a higher level in math. Her phonics skills need to catch up so 1st grade is the best spot for her for now. She also began taking dance lessons last month. I think she enjoys tap the best. Haile has been asking to take gymnastics “like Clarkie” lately, so he took his first class yesterday. I was home with Clark and disappointed that I had to miss it. T.C. said that he did fine though, despite the fact he doesn’t understand everything the coach says. :) Haile is the lover of all things relating to space shuttles, airplanes, and Legos! He could play with Legos all day every day. Hana loves to color and do art projects. She loves her dolls and doing puzzles. They are a lot of fun to watch explore their new world.

Christmas came and went. It is a blur to me looking back. I was just trying to stay afloat from our huge life change. We did have a lovely Christmas though. It was wonderful watching Hana and Haile experience everything. They loved the tree and driving around looking at lights. They loved decorating their gingerbread houses and were so excited on Christmas morning. We tried to cut back on Christmas buying this year and we purchased some items through Samaritan’s Purse. The children enjoyed trying to decide what to “purchase.” They decided on some chickens and buying into the purchase of a donkey. We hope to make this an annual tradition.

We have also celebrated several birthdays. Ali turned 15 in Dec., Hana turned 8 in Dec., and Clark turned 7 in Jan. Dec. and Jan. are busy around the Judd house.

We took our first family vacation as a family of 6. At the end of January we took the children to DisneyWorld and then to Destin for a few days of rest and relaxation for us parents. It was a lot of fun. It was a learning process as we adjusted to how long it now takes to get all of us out of the door (especially while all sharing ONE bathroom in a hotel). However, we were on time for the bus every single morning. :) (you should be impressed being on time is a challenge for us) Ali and Clark were of course super excited to go back to Disney, but Hana and Haile had NO idea what to expect. They did so well for the most part. Hana had the tendancy to wander away, but we quickly learned to have her hold onto the boys stroller so she couldn’t! She also didn’t understand why in the world she couldn’t have everything in the little Disney shops. She pouted on more than one occasion. Haha!! She thought she must in fact buy every single adorable $65 princess dress. Ummm, no. She thought just because I said no 499 times that maybe just maybe I would say yes on the 500th time. Well anyway, she didn’t get the dress and one day she will learn about money and the fact that she can’t have everything she wants. We loved our hotel. We decided to try Shades of Green which is a military resort on the Disney property. It is across the street from the Polynesian. Location was great and loved that we could walk to the Polynesian to catch the monorail. So once we were completely exhausted from walking the parks from morning to night, we loaded up and headed to our favorite spot in Destin, FL. It is a lovely place right on the beach…not fancy but love that we can literally open our sliding glass door and there is the beach! Hana and Haile LOVED the beach. All the children played on the beach until they finally had to come in to eat or get a bath. The pool was heated so they also swam a couple of times. Ali and Hana braved the cold water and took a dip in the ocean! Ali was freezing and had to force Hana to get out as I think Hana would have stayed there as long as we would have let her. Brrrr!! They made sandcastles, airplanes, alligators, had “sword fights” with sticks, fed the seagulls, took walks, looked for shells, etc. I loved watching them. It was a blessing to see them experience the ocean for the very first time. We can’t wait to go back. Oh, and while we were at Disney it just so happened (thank you Jesus for working that out!!) that some dear friends of ours from our seminary days were in Orlando for a conference! We all had dinner together at the Grand Floridian one night and they also came and hung out at our hotel one night. SO FUN! It had been too long.

Clark has had a few gymnastics meets now. He has placed very well in them all. He came in 1st overall in his age division at the last meet. He has 3 more meets this season. Ali has a big swim meet this weekend. I always enjoy seeing how she improves from one meet to the next. She is doing very well in school this year. She made all A’s on her last report card. So hard to believe she only has 2 1/2 years left of high school.

Well, there is more I wanted to go into…but time is so limited. Hopefully I won’t wait so long to write a post next time! Here are pictures from the past couple of months. Just click on slide show to make it larger.

February 14, 2012   No Comments

Ethiopia changed us…

As in…forever changed us. I haven’t updated this blog in forever. I had every intention of updating it while we were in Ethiopia, that obviously didn’t happen. So I’m going to back up to November and go from there. During the early part of November I started feeling a tug to go ahead and go to Ethiopia despite the fact that we didn’t have Embassy clearance yet. It was taking far longer than anticipated for the U.S. Embassy to clear us for their Visa’s. A birth relative needed to be interviewed. Once we got notice as to when that interview was going to take place, we made arrangements for Ali and I to fly over. We decided it was best if T.C. stayed at home with Clark since we were not sure of a time frame. We knew this had been the last step in all of the cases we had heard about. So…if I was already over there when we received clearance that meant I could take the next available appointment to apply for their Visa’s. God orchestrated it so perfectly. Ali and I flew in on a Tuesday and we had Embassy clearance that FRIDAY! The next available appointment was…get this…that coming Monday (as in the next business day!!). T.C. called me with the news and I of course said that yes we would definitely be there. We had our appointment that Monday (the week of Thanksgiving) and picked up their Visa’s that Wednesday (as in the day before the Embassy would have been taking their Thanksgiving break!). Yahoo. I was so relieved. We were only in country for 8 nights. We were anticipating the worst case scenario could have been several weeks. On the way to Ethiopia, Ali and I spent two nights in Dubai for a little mother/daughter adventure. It was so much fun! We were picked up at our hotel only 30 minutes after arriving for an Arabian Adventure. T.C. and I had taken the same tour back in July and Ali was very much looking forward to being able to do it herself. We went 4 wheel driving out in the desert and ended up at an Arabian encampment for dinner and camel riding. (ok, so we didn’t do the driving…we were riding! ha) The next morning we enjoyed a double decker sight seeing bus tour where you hop on and off where you so desire. We saw the Persian Gulf, the Atlantis Resort, Palm Island, Ski Dubai, and another mall with a HUGE aquarium inside, took an evening boat tour down Dubai Creek, then on foot we explored the Dubai souks (gold, spice, etc.). We made memories we will never forget.

After we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia we were escorted to Acacia Village where the children lived. I was able to take custody of them that first day. They stayed with us at our guest house for the entire length of our stay. The children did so good leaving the transition home. There were two sisters that were upset with Hana’s leaving. But they are at home with their new families in the states as of a couple of days ago also. Praise God! Hana and Haile said goodbye to their caretakers, they gave us a traditional coffee ceremony, some staff prayed over the children, and we were on our way. Just like that. The children were excited to be leaving. All in all they did very well with the huge life change of having a new family. Thank goodness there were a few other American families in our guest house and also right down the street at another house. There was a family that adopted a sibling set of 3 from the same transition home. What a blessing. The children were able to play together and we also took some outings together. Ali hung out with them like they had known each other for years. It was precious. Friendship just doesn’t have language barriers. It was beautiful to watch.

As time went on, the family with the other sibling set flew back to states. We got to know a family staying in our guest house that adopted a little precious 2 year old boy. As we were talking, I learned that they had gotten involved in a ministry involved with Korah. (google it…Korah trash dump in Addis Ababa) It was break your heart and leave you amazed that people are forced to live in such horrific conditions. It is most literally a village surrounding the local trash dump. The people living there get their food supply from digging through the trash dump.T.C. and I had already been made aware of Korah and were interested in visiting it for ourselves. However, since he wasn’t with me…I hadn’t planned on going with all the children. As it turned out, Jenny invited me to go to Korah with her one day to deliver some items that she was purchasing with money her church at home had raised. It was such an incredible experience. We first met with a pastor there that helps meet the needs of families and arranges Bible training for children. We happened to go on a Saturday and got to see some of the classes in action. We then toured the surrounding area and met with several families that Jenny’s church was able to financially help. The stories were heartbreaking. (a woman about to be forced to start begging due to her husband leaving her with a small child, families whose income included what items they could resell from the trash dump, a woman who was dying with HIV and TB and leaving behind children and medical bills, etc.) It made me evaluate all that we take for granted on a daily basis. Every time we turn our water on at home we know we are going to get clean water. We know that…but do we really think about it? We had a young man tell us on our first trip that he had to start drinking the tap water (highly contaminated) because he could not longer afford bottled water. He had no other choice but to drink that which he knew was contaminating his body. Wow! One of the drivers I had on the second trip told me that even though he might only get one meal a day (two if he was fortunate that day) but that he completely trusted in God to meet his needs. It was very sobering for me to hear. And now we are home and I’m not sure what to make of all of this. We take so much for granted. I get so annoyed with people now………you know the “Oh I MUST rip out my entire kitchen because I WANT custom cabinets and granite…I mean our cabinets are white laminate and WHO does that…who builds a house and puts that in?” Yeah I heard that conversation last week at Clark’s gymnastics meet. I was so annoyed that I wanted to turn around and rip her eyes out….don’t get worried…I didn’t really do it. :) Things like that just annoy me now. I mean it annoyed me before going to Ethiopia, but it really annoys me now. Oh a side note, while we were there we were able to have lunch with a sweet family that have a church plant in Addis. They moved there from North Carolina and we have a mutual friend. We got connected through our friend and had a nice lunch with them. They are about to start the adoption process also!!

I’m also reading through Advent Conspiracy (thanks Jenny!!) and T.C. happened to be teaching a Bible study on it. It is SO good, if you were wondering. :) Read it…it will challenge you to make a major change with the Christmas season. We made a choice to scale back our Christmas buying this year and give more to organizations that do great things. Don’t feel sorry for our children….they are still getting spoiled….we just opted to spend less and point to the manger more. It’s a win/win all around. If we can point our children to look beyond the end of their own noses to the needs of others and to Jesus…than we have succeeded. It isn’t easy. It is everywhere…this obsession with Christmas buying. The commercials that tell us we need the latest and greatest. It attracts our children…sadly. They see the commercials, the catalogs, the me..me..me mentality. We can’t sit back and be ok with that. For our family, we MUST take back CHRISTmas. To be in awe of the babe in the manger that changed history so many years ago. To enjoy simple family time. Making cookies, looking at Christmas lights, make gingerbread houses, Christmas movies. Children will remember these times far longer than they will remember what toys they get.

Hana and Haile are doing remarkably well so far. We arrived home on Thanksgiving. Only God…the giver of all good gifts….could have planned it like that. Thanksgiving….I mean wow. We had so much to be thankful for. T.C. cooked us a turkey and the fixings and we enjoyed our first Thanksgiving meal as a family of 6. It was amazing (jet lag and all). Hana and Haile are settling into their new lives. Haile has some issues with crowds and getting overwhelmed which manifests into anger and a tempter tantrum. They do not happen daily. We are trying to learn the cues and what exactly he can’t handle. Hana has handled everything like a champ though. They are both high energy and into everything. :) They got to experience the Nutcracker this week and loved it. We also had a few friends over and decorated Christmas cookies. Everything is new and exciting for them. They had a great time decorating the tree. Hana wanted me to buy Christmas decorations at Target before our tree was up. I guess she thought we didn’t have any.

Clark had his first gymnastics meet last weekend. He came in third overall in in his age division and placed in every individual event. He was pretty proud…though he did say that he wanted 1st instead of 3rd. But it gave us an opportunity to talk about being happy for his friend. (it happened to be a good friendon his team that got 1st) He has another meet the first weekend of January.

Ali had a swim meet last weekend as well. T.C. ended up having to work all weekend with the National Guard, so it was my first taste at juggling two big events with 4 children. When you don’t have family in town, there is no option except to drag them all. Everyone did well though. Oh and they were in opposite ends of town. (an hour apart from each other) Ali did well at the meet and has another the 2nd weekend of January.

Ali and Clark are all looking forward to our upcoming family vacation to Disney. We have plans to head to Orlando the end of January. We are playing it by ear though as to whether we think Haile can handle the crowds. I think he will do ok as soon as he sees Buzz Lightyear. :)

This week my sweet cousin, Cheryl, and her daughter, Georgia, made a quick trip down here to meet the kiddos. We were able to go to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. We had such a fun time! Love great memories with family. Last weekend a friend that works with TC at the guard hosted a small shower for the children. They got some clothing items and the boys got lots of hot wheels cars so you know they were in heaven. It was so sweet they even remembered Ali and Clark and TC and me! We got a wonderful gift certificate to a parent/teacher store so I can get books for the kiddos. We got a fun game bag with lots of games and even a “couples” bag with a Starbucks card, cheese, candle, etc. So fun!!!

Our cup runneth over this Christmas season as we are so thankful and blessed that God has finally united our family. May you and your families enjoy a God filled Christmas this year as we focus on the babe in the manger so long ago. Let us join in the Christmas story and not just have it as a side dish.

December 11, 2011   3 Comments

…and a new chapter unfolds

The past week has been a whirlwind of emotions, plans, prayers, being in constant touch with our travel agent, decisions, and more prayers. We feel like God is leading me to go to Ethiopia. So on Nov. 12th, Ali and I will load our plane headed for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We are spending two nights in Dubai for a mother/daughter adventure. Then on November 15th we are going to be escorted to Acacia Village so that we can pick up Hana and Haile. I can’t believe it. I have waited SO long for this. No, we do NOT have Embassy clearance as of yet. There is a meeting between the Embassy and a birth family member also on the 15th. God willing this is the last step in the seemingly endless process. We are praying we would then be granted Embassy clearance quickly after that meeting. We just started feeling like it would be best if I went ahead and went to Ethiopia to begin the bonding process. It will hopefully make the trip home and also the transition a bit easier. We are praying that Ali and I are only in Ethiopia 2 weeks or so…but it is very much up in the air. The bonus is that since we are legally their parents, I can pick them up for the transition home and have them stay with us at the guest home. I am over the moon. I am going to miss TC and Clark so much, but I know this is best in the long run.

I came across this blog where the lady wrote an amazing post about what it is like both before and after adoption. I thought that it is beneficial for those of us going through it and for those that would like to know how to be a good friend for those going through it. click here

Other than the ups and downs with dealing with the Embassy, we have been doing well. There is finally a bit of a chill in the air today. Love it. We have been more than ready for fall weather. Clark went as Spider Man for Halloween. We aren’t really into Halloween..ummm…much at all. But we figured it couldn’t hurt for him to go to some houses to get candy. He stays clear of the scary houses. That is fine by us…glad about that really. Halloween has become so dark and morbid over the years. Not our favorite holiday by a long shot. So now we are on to Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Being with family, eating my mother’s cornbread dressing, and eating and eating and eating. This year Ali and I will more than likely be in Ethiopia. Ali wasn’t tooooo thrilled about that realization as she loves Thanksgiving as well. However, it’s a small price to pay to be spending time with Hana and Haile. I told my mom that maybe after we return home we could get together for a late Thanksgiving celebration. The date doesn’t really matter anyway.

T.C. and I managed to evade the stomach bug last weekend. (so far at least) Ali and Clark both came down with it. The were pretty crummy for a couple of days. Sure hate it when my babies are sick.

We have attended a couple of fun field trips over the last 6 weeks or so. We went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to watch an IMAX movie and then go through their butterfly garden. They both loved seeing all the butterflies and cocoons. We have also been to the train museum in Galveston which included a small train ride. Clark was in heaven. They allowed us to eat our picnic lunches in some dining cars that they have on the property. That was a nice touch.

I was just glancing back through my last blog post and realized how long it has been since I posted. I haven’t even posted about our eventful trip to San Antonio! We try to take a family mini-vaca to San Antonio ever year to take advantage of the free military tickets to Sea World. Well, we went the end of Sept. We had a GREAT time at Sea World. It was the lowest crowd that we have ever seen there. Which to me…is awesome! We rode everything without waiting in any lines. Needless to say we had a wonderful time………then we got back to our hotel. Our day went downhill quickly. We were going to have a relaxing evening at the hotel taking advantage of their wonderful playground and swimming pool. Ali and Clark had decided to play on the playground (yes, Ali too!) first. All was great…then I turn around to find Ali lying flat on her face in the sand. (so very thankful it was a sand playground). She had tried jumping over the bottom of a slide and somehow caught her foot and tripped over the slide. I heard her yell that she had broken her arm. I had turned to see a site that would send chills down any mothers back. Her elbow was completely out of socket and looked broken. (even the ER doc thought for sure it was also broken) After so much need pain meds in the ER, they took x-rays to see what all was going on. Much to every one’s surprise it was just a complete dislocation. They sedated her and popped it back into place. They then put her in a splint and we were told to see our pediatrician when we got home. Our pediatrician said the x-ray was the worst dislocation she had every seen. Ali just HAD to be an overachiever..haha! She was one sore puppy for weeks. She couldn’t swim for a while due to all the trauma from the torn ligaments and tendons.

Clark is doing well in gymnastics. He will begin his competition season the first weekend of December. I can’t wait to watch that.

Here is a fabulous song by Casting Crowns. It was written about the adoption of one of the members of Casting Crown. I love it. Thanks to my sweet cousin, Cheryl, for telling me about this song. I love Casting Crowns but had not heard this yet.
click here

My ladies small group Bible study is reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I’m loving it so far. It is challenging and convicting. Both of which I needed right now. Our chapter this week is about giving God glory in all that we do. That it is NOT about me, but about Him. One sentence particularly struck me. “The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing God wants to be glorified, because this whole things is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift.” I just loved that.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Please pray for Ali and I as we travel half a world away to bond with two very precious kiddos. Pray we will stay healthy and safe and I will maintain some semblence of sanity through it all. Pray that we will be granted Embassy clearance very quickly without any further delays.

November 3, 2011   2 Comments