Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All I Really Want For Christmas

Just before Christmas 2007 we began our adoption. By Christmas 2008, we had received a gift which was immeasurably more than we could've asked or imagined. (Eph. 3:20-21) Adoption blesses all involved. To HIM be the glory.

Here are a few glimpses of our journey.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Week Menu

Yey! It's Christmas week! We have the little "Christmas Countdown" hanging in our kitchen. Minte got it out and started counting before it was even December, and loved to watch me act all freaked out each day as the number got lower. Now that I'm through shopping and mostly finished wrapping, I cheer right along with him as the count gets lower. It surprised him the first day I said "Hooray!!" instead of clutching my chest like I was having a heart attack. LOL

This year I haven't gotten as creative with my cooking and homemade food gifts as I have in years past. I gave myself the year off. It's been nice! Also, it's "back to basics" for me on our Christmas menu this year. In years past I've found fun and different recipes, or spent lots of time making fancy cookies and candy, but this year I just didn't have it in me. Some years are like that!

I hope you are having a great Monday and looking forward to a wonderful Christmas with those you love! Here's what's on our menu this week:

Monday: Asian Sesame Chicken in the crock pot, rice, stir fry
Tuesday: Pumpkin Chili, cornbread
Wednesday: Ethiopian Food night! This week I'm making Doro Wat, a spicy chicken dish that is made for special occasions.
Thursday: Christmas Eve at my father-in-law's house. He always makes a yummy spread, but we all bring appetizers. I think I'm taking this Snowman Cheeseball this year. I made it a few years ago and it was fun!
Friday: Merry CHRISTmas!!
Christmas breakfast favorites- Muffins (blueberry, banana chocolate chip, and lemon poppyseed), and sausage balls
Christmas lunch- Crock Pot Ham, yeast rolls, Paula Dean's Green Bean Casserole, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, chocolate chip pecan pie
Christmas dinner- at my mother-in-law's house. We all land there after having at least one or two gatherings elsewhere during the day, and thus a big meal at lunch. So we bring snacky appetizer food. So fun! This year I think I'm going to make something I sort of "made up" last year... easy and yummy. (Healthy, not so much. But it's not January 1st yet!) It's the Hormel Tamale casserole recipe, but with the tamales cut up so it's "dippable." Served with the ginormous Fritos. Yum.

For more recipes or to share your menu, visit Laura at Have a yummy, wonderful CHRISTmas!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday's Meanderings and Menu

It's the holiday season!! A wonderful season, to be sure, but such a busy one! I'm certainly not a social butterfly, or a person who's "in demand," but I've been receiving invitations regularly for various gatherings, putting them on our calendar and figuring out what I need to bring. This morning I received an invitation I simply cannot refuse. In fact, it's one I've received before and accepted, only to find it buried again under a pile... the invitation is found in 1 Peter 5:7. In this scripture I am invited to "cast all [my] anxieties on Him, for He cares for [me.]" Did you know you're invited, too? Here is it for YOU: "...cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you."

And, as with many invitations during this holiday season, there is something to bring to the occasion. It sounds so simple: bring your anxieties. But truly, it would be easier to prepare an appetizer for a party than to REALLY bring my anxieties to Him. When we bring food to a party, presumably all we bring home is an empty (or almost empty!) dish. How is it that when I "cast" (literally "throw") my anxieties onto Him, I either take them all back or go get new ones?? So it's an invitation, but I do need to bring something. It's an invitation I'd be crazy to refuse! And it's one I'm not letting get buried in the busy-ness this season. So, I accepted it this morning and brought to him my school anxiety, my oldest-son-with-a-broken-finger worries, my traveling-husband fears, my driving-teenager angst... all of it.

[You can scroll down for Menu Plan Monday... sorry for the marathon post!]


Here's what we've been up to in recent days. I'm starting with my older two kids, as they get VERY little "press time" here on the blawg. That's as they want it, of course, being teenagers. I've often said I would've simply DIED if my mom would've had a blog when I was a teenager! So, I try to give them their space, and let them live "unpublished" and unblogged lives. But, sometimes I just can't help it. :)

Our sweet daughter Bethany was named "Player of the Week" on her varsity basketball team. The coach told her it was for her great defense, guarding their best player, and spurring this week's "come-from-behind" win. She has only recently gotten back into basketball, which was the sport she first fell in love with in elementary/middle school. By 6th grade or so, she had moved on to gymnastics, but that became too all-consuming. So, we're back in basketball and loving it! She is such an amazing young woman, and her new teammates are just as fantastic. They are precious young women of God from wonderful families, with hearts for the Lord and for the nations, and have welcomed her right in. We are so blessed!

My sweet oldest son was part of a production of "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" this weekend. He's never been part of any theatrical production, so I was very proud that he decided to try this. He was Assistant Stage Mgr., part of the set crew, Prop Master, as well as on the grip crew. I love how he worked behind the scenes to help other people be seen and succeed, and to help serve others. I think that is very Christ-like of him!

And while Dad and Bethany were at a basketball game, here was my handsome "date" to the play performance this weekend. He came to me and asked if he could wear a "jacket" to the play. Well, since it was below freezing outside, I told him a jacket would be a great idea. Then he explained that he meant a "soup jacket." Which, of course, means "suit jacket." Absolutely! I love it when my young men dress like civilized young men, so I thought he looked very handsome when he came downstairs dressed in his button-down shirt and soup jacket. Very, very nice!

Another precious thing happened this weekend. Our church collects shoe boxes, similar to Samaritan's Purse, but specifically for Mexico. We have several members with private planes who volunteer their planes and fuel to pilot the boxes down to Mexico. It's a wonderful ministry, and each year our church sends around 3,000 boxes. Last weekend it was reported that they only had received 900 or so boxes. Well, this bothered Minte greatly. He came to me Saturday with a Wal Mart gift card he had received a couple of months ago for his birthday and insisted that he go put together a box for a boy. So, bright and early yesterday morning he and I headed out to Wal Mart and he filled up a box. I asked him if it would've made him happy to receive such a box when he lived in Ethiopia. His response was, "I did. From you."

Last year it was ALL so new to him, and he didn't even speak the language yet, so he is experiencing Christmas in yet another way this year. He has wanted to send shoe boxes and get an angel off of every tree (church, restaurants, etc.) I just love it! And yesterday , he insisted on using his own money. It's especially poignant to me, given his background. And seeing a little Ethiopian boy buying presents for a little Mexican boy this morning was just the thing I needed to warm my heart on a cold, drizzly morning. God is just so good.


And finally, our menu. Why am including this? Who really cares? I realized this weekend it is such a gift. In this season of gift-giving, I'm scrambling to find the perfect gifts for those I love and came to the realization that menu-planning (and, really, all planning that I do for a smoothly-running household) is a gift to MYSELF. Of course, it spills right over onto my family, but it is such a gift to me! Just as with a gift, you choose what that person will like or need in a given moment in the future. Well, menu-planning goes ahead of you, visits say, next Tuesday, decides what will help you or bless you that day, purchases what will be needed, and... there it is. Tuesday (or whatever day you've planned for) you've received a gift! And in turn, your family has received a gift of a meal. We go to such lengths to give gifts to others this season, as we should, but shouldn't we put that kind of effort into our planning? It is a gift for you!

So, here's what's cooking in my kitchen this week. Keeping in mind there are 3 basketball games and a traveling husband, dinner is a priority!!

Monday: Crock Pot Pork Chops and Stuffing, green beans, carrots, yeast rolls
Tuesday: Crock Pot Chicken Tacos (one of my favorite things to have on hand for dinners and lunches... great nachos, too!) We will be eating these rolled up in tortillas en route or at a basketball game. :)
Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Minchet Abishe (beef), spicy peas and potatoes
Thursday: Black bean burritos (portable... going to a basketball tournament. May also stuff these with Mexican rice)
Friday: Turkey hot dogs (again... portable, see above. ;)

For more menus, visit Laura at

I hope you have a blessed, wonderful week!

Friday, December 04, 2009

First Snow!

All he's asked for for Christmas are 3 things:

1. A swimming pool
2. A Labrador Retriever
3. Snow

Needless to say, we've been praying for snow!

One morning this week, my Facebook newsfeed was all a-buzz that there was, of all things, right here in Texas on the second day of December... SNOW! My daughter texted me from two towns away, where my husband was taking her to a class. "Tell Minte there was snow coming down while we were driving on the highway!" So, I told him, even though there was no trace of snow at our house yet.

And so he took up his watch:

And waited...

...and waited

...and waited.

If you've lived in Ethiopia for the first 10 years of your life, there's been no chance that you've seen snow. If you've been transplanted "deep in the heart of Texas" your chances have not gotten much better! So, if you're going to see it, you have to watch for it. Which he did, for a long time!

Finally... some snow!

If you look reeeeallly hard in the picture behind him you can see a few wet flakes coming down, which melted promptly upon impact. But, that counted. His official first snow!

I know, I know... it's hard to see.

Almost as hard to see as the sandals he's wearing. LOL

Saturday, November 28, 2009

When You Look At An Adopted Child, You're Looking At A Survivor

Two years ago on Thanksgiving Day, after the dishes were cleared, we filled out our initial application to adopt. A baby girl. Last year, there "she" sat at our Thanksgiving table, a just-turned-10 year old boy. Now he's 11, much bigger than the picture in my sidebar, and I simply can't imagine our life without him.

Recently I heard a speaker say "When you look at an adopted child, you're looking at a survivor."

By now you have probably either heard of the movie, The Blind Side, or hopefully have seen it. I could relate to so much of it. Especially this:

"You're changing his life, Sweetie."

"No, he's changing mine."

By God's grace, He protected my "blind side" and opened my eyes to what he had for our family. We have been forever changed. I've had so much for which to be thankful this weekend.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Back To Reality and Monday's Menu

Well, we are back! My husband and I had a glorious, soul-wrecking, beautiful, exhausting, joyful, heart-wrenching, energizing, physically-draining week in Ethiopia last week. Notice how all the descriptors in the previous sentence seem to be at odds? That about sums it up. Conflicting emotions. All week long. One minute I would be joyfully dancing with children, singing songs in their language that I learned to sing with my own Ethiopian son at home, thinking "It just doesn't get any better than this!!" The next minute I was squatting down on a small stool on the side of a high mountain, praying with a husband and wife both infected with HIV, holding their small son whom they so desperately want to survive to raise, surrounded by the tents in which they and their "refugee" community live as outcasts from their families and communities. One minute I would be at a beautiful restaurant, enjoying the amazing food and absorbing the culture of that enchanting and ancient country, the next I would be looking out the car window at the street people who live huddled under a blanket and starving on the median of a busy street, or handing packets of my snack crackers and trail mix through my car window to a starving child, or mother with a hungry baby on her back. How? How am I supposed to feel?

We landed at the Frankfurt airport as we have this time of year on previous trips to Africa... straight from huts, orphans, poverty and need to holiday glitz, commercialism and excess. Once home, we drove our Suburban through the streets of our upper middle class subdivision, on our way to pick up our dogs from the kennel where they lived in more comfort than some of the people we had seen just hours before. As we turned out of our subdivision, the trees are already lit for the Christmas season, greenery and bows adorn the entrance...a reminder that one of my main tasks in the weeks ahead is to shop, spend and consume. How am I supposed to feel?

I used to feel extreme guilt. I used to question our whole life, geographical location and lifestyle. I used to come home and immediately feel like I was carrying a heavy weight. One thing I have never felt, and to which I feel a certain aversion, is the "Well, it just makes me realize how blessed I am" sentiment. While I absolutely believe in living a life of gratitude, I have never felt comfortable letting the stark contrast between my life and that of a mother in an African village lead me to (indirectly) thank the Lord that I somehow ended up with a better lot than her. But, how? How am I supposed to feel?

I don't believe I'm supposed to feel guilt or condemnation. That only pulls me down and doesn't edify or help anyone. I'm supposed to sift through my feelings, bring them to Jesus and let Him help me feel what He has placed in my heart to feel for HIS children. If any of those feelings bring conviction, that will pull me up... toward Him and His character. So that is what I'm doing this week. I used to question if we were supposed to leave this life here and plunk down in a hut there. Some are. We aren't. We can better leverage our skills and resources from here. I know we aren't supposed to live here unchanged by what we've experienced on our mission trips, but how does my giving up new cars and recreational decorating directly benefit that mom on the street in Africa? How do my tears translate into real hope for someone else? By action. Only action. Christ's love is demonstrated love. And I'm still on the journey to figuring out what that is. Some are called to leave it all and go there. Some of us are called to leave it short term, go there, come back here, save more money, go back there, on and on. I do believe it has blessed some of our ministry partners to know that we would continue to leave here and go there. Over and over. I actually had a full time vocational missionary tell me she thinks that's harder. In a way I think she's right.

Why am I sharing all of this in the same post as I'm going to do my usual "Monday Menu" post? Isn't that a bit odd? Well, yes and no. Mentally, I need to do what I always do. I've got to get back to my routine, of which planning menus is a part. I also want to keep it real. At least half of what I have planned this week is of the Stouffer's frozen variety. Many women wouldn't even post that on their blogs, but really? After what I've seen in recent days, and what we all know to be reality around the world, we would be ashamed or even dare to think that USDA-approved prepackaged food isn't good enough?

Another reason is that people "click on by" from the Monday Menu link that may never visit my blog any other time. And I want to tell them (you, if that's you!) a piece of our story.

Another reason is what I mentioned above: gratitude. Every mom with a blog could post a menu and feel like it is blog-worthy. Peanut butter sandwiches. Cereal. Cans of soup. Spaghettios. Macaroni and cheese. Frozen dinners. Chicken nuggets. Do you know what all of that has in common? It's God's provision!! Prepare it, post it and be thankful for it, giving Him the glory for providing it.

I have sooooo many more thoughts to post, as you might imagine, but I've already been on here too long, with a Monday's worth of school to put together and a week's worth of Africa to wash out of our clothes. I have missed my blog (no reliable internet there), I have missed my kids, I have missed my weenie dog, I have missed my bed. I have been physically ill and mentally drained. I am ready to tackle what God has for me here at home but I would pack it all up again tomorrow and go back if I could.

One gift I gave myself the week before we left is a planned menu and stocked freezer/pantry for when we returned. So here is what I have planned... by God's grace:

Monday: Stouffer's frozen chicken enchiladas, black beans, salad
Tuesday: Frozen lasagna, frozen garlic bread, bagged caesar salad, frozen peas
Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Ye Misr Wet (Hot Split Lentil Stew), Fosoleay (carrots and green beans)
Thursday: YO YO (you're on you're own)
Friday: Slow Cooked Corn Chowder, wheat rolls

For more menus, or to share yours (no matter what it is!!) visit Laura at

I will be sharing more of our week in Ethiopia in the coming days. Thank you to all who went along with us in spirit and lifted us up in prayer. I know some of us will be returning there together someday. God is good.

Eph. 3:20!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back to Ethiopia!!

How does God continue to see fit to take an ordinary suburban couple- a homeschool mom and an insurance/surety bond underwriter guy and continue to plunk them down across the world... where they are privileged to look into the eyes of some of the most amazing and humble servants of Christ and take even a small part in some of their work? Where they can visit some of His precious children in some of the direst circumstances any of us could ever imagine? Give them the privilege of seeing first hand what our great and mighty God is doing in this world? HOW is this possible? As I write this today, I am again humbled and astounded at the opportunities which lay before us as we prepare to leave today for a week in Ethiopia. We will be gone from today (the 30th) through next Saturday (the 7th). We are packing a LOT into just a few days, and we will praying that God will stretch our time. He will make it work!

Originally another friend and partner in our non-profit was going to go with Luke, but praise God, their adoption travel dates to China have moved up and he must save his days off of work. Luke and I began to pray about the possibility of me going instead, and God miraculously provided the funds necessary... so here I go! I've been busily packing, getting the boys packed and their schoolwork ready to stay with our amazing friends (the family whose dad was originally going to travel with Luke), Bethany ready to stay with her amazing aunt, putting together packages for the kids in the orphanages we will visit, preparing my school plans and menus for when we return... all the "mom" stuff and all the mission stuff at once. Our God is so faithful to provide me with the energy, brain cells (!) and resources to do the things He calls me to do. ALL of this is SO far above me, and so far out of my comfort zone. Yet, here I go! Amazing. Glory to God. (Oh!! And He also knew we would need 3 pieces of our heart necklace, so we can each have a piece while we are separated- one with me, one with the boys, and one with Bethany. He is a God of little details!!)

We have been privileged to serve on mission teams with some of you reading this. Many of you have been with us on these trips in just as real and tangible a way through your prayer support and contributions to our church and non-profit ministry. It is an unspeakable blessing to us to know you and work along side you on this side and on the other side of the oceans, making known the great name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom and through Whom are ALL things. We love you all!

Some have asked what we will be doing during our week on the ground in Ethiopia. By God's grace, and keeping in mind that "man makes plans, but the LORD directs his steps" (Pr. 16:9), here is our itinerary for the week. We humbly ask that you pray for the names and ministries below with whom we will be meeting, and that God would provide even more "divine appointments" as we seek to minister to all with whom we come in contact as well as prepare to bring future teams in 2010.

Getahun Tesema - founder/President of Bright Hope Organization (a.k.a. Buckner/Bright Hope) a large, effective NGO involved in nearly a dozen ministries. We’ll visit at least a couple of these projects. Getahun’s wife, Tegist, is the director of Buckner/Bright Hope’s children’s home – their combination orphanage & transition home (where our son Minte lived) We will also visit this home during the week.

Joe & Karen Bridges - leaders in Ethiopia for their 501(c)(3) out of Tennessee called The Foresaken Children. From their website: “...exists as an advocate for Ethiopia’s children at risk by building sustainable financial support for Christ-centered Ethiopian organizations working with children at risk, and helping these organizations to develop into strategic, long-lasting interventions.” Joe & Karen moved to Ethiopia last year, along with their two children. They work closely with their Ethiopian NGO partner, Children’s Home Ethiopia, to run both a boys’ home in the Lafto area (near the guest house) and a daytime drop-in center in the Mexico area. (another area of Addis…)

Wondwossen (Peter) Abera – founder of Compassionate Family International, an Ethiopian NGO which operates two drop-in centers we will visit. One is within walking distance of the guest house in Lafto and the other in the Kechene area of the city. Peter is just an outstanding, humble, joyous servant who has blessed us just by his friendship, let alone the way he cares for those in need.

Ephrem Hagos – Ethiopia Guest Home manager and leader of his own soccer/sports ministry to street children. We’ll visit the site of the soccer ministry which takes place nearly every afternoon, and probably take some of the kids out for a very special meal that evening (for us and them). With one or two of them on each of our arms, we’ll visit the local Ethiopian version of Starbucks/cafe and spend some time with them… giving them a voice while we hear their stories.

Beza Entoto Outreach – through Beza Int’l Church in Addis, a multi-faceted outreach program primarily aimed at the HIV/AIDS community on Entoto Mountain. Aspects of the program include: job creation; Self-Help Groups - like life groups with a micro-finance twist; weekly children’s ministry; health care. We’ll visit not only the Outreach center but also the Entoto community as well.

Win Souls For God – a ministry based in the heart of Addis and run by a small group of energetic, giving young men. We’ll hear about their ministry and visit at least two of their projects: a shelter/home for women rescued & rehabilitating from prostitution; and a vocational training center where boys rescued from lives on the street are learning a trade – in this case weaving very intricate fabrics.

Bole Bulbula – an impoverished rural village that lies literally right behind/next to the airport in Addis. Our non-profit has taken steps to sponsor some of the children there and to provide vocational training opportunities for some of their parents. We’ll visit the village along with Pastor Abdissa Bente Leye of Addis and the local leader in Bole, Pastor Gezahegn Megenassa.

Kids’ Care and A-Hope – two larger orphanages located in Addis. In contrast to the smaller Buckner/BHO children’s home that serves as both orphanage and transition home, Kids’ Care is a large orphanage where children are waiting to be adopted through one of at least four different agencies (from the U.S. and several E.U. countries). Typically, when children have been “referred” or matched up with adoptive families, they will move from the orphanage to that particular adoption agency’s “transition home,” a smaller facility. A-Hope is one of the largest orphanages serving predominantly HIV-positive children.

Elolam orphanage – serving a small rural area near Debre Zeit, south of Addis. Our organization has been working with this orphanage to facilitate the paperwork needed for children at this home to be eligible for adoption.

Additionally, Luke and I are personally going to visit the home of Minte's extended family and take this opportunity to update them once again with photos of Minte. Luke had the opportunity to visit them last January and all of Minte's relatives and neighbors were most overjoyed by a tangible reminder of how loved Minte is and how we regard them as important in his/our life. It is an amazing privilege and opportunity to maintain this connection.

Again, thank you for all of your prayers, interest, and participation in our work. God is doing a mighty thing in this generation! May He bless you richly, and we pray you will return with us to Ethiopia at some point in the future. "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." (W. Carey)

I'll update when we get back!

Eph. 3:20-21!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Go Make Disciples

I know we're not in full time missions, but as I'm zipping up bags this week for another trip (by God's grace!!) to Africa, I really needed to hear this this morning. Amen and amen!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Menu and an Ethiopian Recipe

Happy Monday!! Has it really been a week already since last Monday? Time really does fly when you're having fun. Yes, it is fun raising kids and all that it entails!

Speaking of "flying" that's what I'll be doing Friday. My husband and I are leaving for Ethiopia for a wonderful missions opportunity with our non-profit! Isn't that amazing? SO, since I'll be away from my kitchen for over a week and won't be here to deal with leftovers, I am only cooking for two nights this week. Then it's "YO YO" ("You're On Your Own") nights for two nights so we can eat all the food and clean out the fridge. The kids love YO YO nights. They can eat whatever - leftovers, sandwiches, breakfast for dinner... anything they want to make and clean up after. (Having a posted menu helps on nights like this, so everyone knows what leftovers are available.) I'm also planning on how brain-tired I'll be when we get home from a week in Africa, so I'm making extra enchiladas and putting them in the freezer. This serves a double purpose: it helps me when I get back and also satisfies our desire for Tex Mex which we always get when we travel to other parts of the world. Like, outside Texas, LOL.

Since we'll be apart for a few days, I decided to cook two of our family favorites this week, one from each continent.

Monday: Chicken Enchiladas, black beans, corn casserole
Tuesday: Y'Assa Wet (Spicy Ethiopian Fish Stew) <-- and="" below="" lentils="" recipe="" see="" span="" spicy="" style="font-weight: bold;">Wednesday: YO YO
Thursday:YO YO
Friday: Ciao! Off to Ethiopia! (Kids to their fun friends' and aunt's houses)

Here is the recipe for the Ethiopian dish I'm making this week. ALL of the Ethiopian food I make (which I try to do weekly, you can read more about why here) is with ingredients that can be purchased at Wal Mart or any grocery store. The only things that can't are the bere bere spice, and the injera bread with which you scoop up each bite. We don't even use utensils on Ethiopian food night. Isn't that fun? So, please be encouraged! If you can find an Ethiopian market somewhere to purchase the bere bere and injera, the rest you can do yourself. I know some who make their own injera, something I want to tackle someday! If you don't have access to bere bere spice, you can order some online at a site like this one.

So, here's my recipe, which is adapted from the book Exotic Ethiopian Cooking.


Ye' Assa Wet (Spicy Fish Stew)

3-6 medium fish fillets (I typically use frozen tilapia)
2 cups chopped red onion
1 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup water
3 TBSP bere bere spice (or 4 if you're feeling brave)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 tsp. black pepper
sea salt to taste

Cut the fish into small pieces and place into grill pan. I use my kitchen scissors (like I do for everything!) and this is super easy! You can also use a small skillet. Brown the fish without oil.

While the fish is browning, brown the onions in the 1 cup of oil in another larger skillet.
Once onions begin to brown, add bere bere.
Once bere bere is stirred through, the onions begin to shrink up a little.
Then add the wine, a little at a time, continuing to stir so it does not burn. Alternate adding water a little at a time.
Once fish has cooked for awhile, it will become white and flaky.
Simmer the sauce for about 15-20 minutes to let the wine and spices blend.
Add cooked fish to the spicy stew mixture.
Once fish is added to to the spicy sauce, here is what it looks like. This has become one of our favorites, and it is very quick to put together. It is light, spicy and a wonderful taste of Ethiopia!

Serve with rolled up injera bread. An easy side dish with this is boiled lentils with a dash of bere bere spice in them and maybe a few red onions as well. I highly recommend the Ethiopian Cooking books in my sidebar for lots more recipes and side dishes that compliment this recipe.

For more menus and recipes, visit Laura at Have a yummy week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Works for Me: Not Saving Steps

By now you may have read or heard the recommendation that you should take at least 10,000 steps per day. I first heard of that while we were on a trip to China back in 2007. Our friends were wearing pedometers and keeping track of their steps. Over there where we walked everywhere that was absolutely an attainable goal! Once I got home, I bought a reeallly cheap pedometer by the register at Walmart, and I was amazed to see that I, too, took close to 10,000 steps per day, even though I was at home all day or driving around town! Then I realized that it was SO cheap that it counted 3 steps each time I sat down in a chair. It registered 4 steps when I was, um, in the restroom. Well. Hmph.

Anyway, I've never invested in a better pedometer, but I have started the habit of taking as many steps as I can during the day. Just now I was hanging some clothes in our master closet and laid them all on my bed. I would walk to where the clothes were, pick up one article of clothing, walk through the bathroom into the closet and hang it up, and go back for the next one, rather than take the whole pile into the closet. It didn't take that much more time and gave me a few extra steps.

So, that's what works for me... a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom who doesn't have that many steps built into my day. I do work out and have a treadmill, but I like to build more steps into my daily routine to reach that 10,000 goal. Every step counts!

To read more "works for me Wednesdays" or to share something that works for you, visit We Are That Family. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday's Menu and Minte on the Mend

"...and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness."
Acts 14:17

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. We FINALLY, after weeks of rain (which we desperately needed) had some very welcomed SUNSHINE. Oh how I loved having my windows open, moderate temperatures and sunshine and breezes going through my house! Last week my sweet son Minte had his first illness since he's been home with us (adopted from Ethiopia a little over a year ago.) Poor thing! So, I got a chance to get in touch with my inner "germaphobe" and not only disinfected everything I saw, but used the "down time" to deep clean, move furniture, clean baseboards, etc. It feels so good... and now he does, too. He was much better by Saturday. I feel like we are ready to have a clean, healthy start to our week. At least I hope so.

With the onset of flu season, and especially the H1N1 strain, I have been reinforcing the hand-washing at our house big time. Even older kids need to be reminded! (The main two who need reminding are 11 and 13 year old boys. Need I say more?) I put a big pump bottle of hand cleaner gel in the kitchen and every. single. time. they enter the kitchen they have to "scrub in." Even if they just washed their hands a few minutes earlier in the restroom... I want them in the habit of cleaning their hands upon entering the kitchen. I know, this may be the start of some OCD-like tendencies for them, which I sincerely hope not, but I need visual confirmation that they've cleaned their hands before they start rooting through the fridge or pantry or touching utensils and cups. Hopefully we are keeping the flu virus at bay!!

With his first US illness (which is amazing considering he's been here a year) he got the full treatment... a "nest" on the couch, movies, card games, read alouds, lots of gatorade and juices, popsicles, and nonstop Mommy-love. Last week I shared a soup recipe I had made up on the spot, and that inspired me this week with a sick one. So, I did it again. SO simple! I know I'm the last one on the MPM list almost every week, and probably the last one reading this who has ever made up their own soups, but I'll share what I did... SO fast, and so much healthier than premade canned soup (less sodium, for sure).

1 boneless chicken breast
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 cup "rainbow rotini" (multi color spiral noodles)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

I just boiled the chicken until cooked, then removed the chicken to cool a bit on a plate. While the chicken was boiling I boiled the pasta. Once the chicken was removed from the pot I added the extra chicken broth for flavor, and also the vegetables. I brought those to a boil while I shredded the chicken I had removed. I added the shredded chicken back to the soup pot and added the pasta. He really liked it!

Here is our menu for the week:

Monday: Baked Pesto Chicken, Italian Pasta Stir Fry
Tuesday: Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice, cornbread
Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Minchet Abishe (spicy beef) and Yeatakilt Wet (cabbage and potatoes)
Thursday: Southwestern Pumpkin Soup, crusty wheat rolls
Friday: Eating out at our church's fall festival

To share your menu or to see more menu plans and recipes (not to mention some wonderful organization tips from someone who really knows her stuff!) visit Laura at

Have a yummy week!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our TV Debut!

Recently we got to do something so fun! We were able to be part of our ABC affiliate's morning television show, "Good Morning Texas." We have some sweet friends who own a WONDERFUL company called "Adoption Bug" that sells adoption-themed apparel. Our fun friend was invited to be on the show and she needed some models for her t-shirts. She asked if our family would be interested. Since God seems to have taken to having me live my life on just the other side of my comfort zone I said we'd love to! SO... without further ado...

Not that I want you to watch it again (please please no...) I must add a little commentary. I had NO IDEA the host was going to ask me to turn around. Really? Turn around? On TV? Turn around where my backside is? After I got a chance to watch the footage I saw that I did make sort of a "seriously-I'm-supposed-to-turn-around-I-wish-I-would've-spent-more-time-on-the-back-of-my-hair" face. Fortunately for the viewers what they needed to zoom in on was, um, north of the waistline. (Unlike the day before when some women had been modeling leggings. ::shudder::) See the thing is, I totally forgot there was a scripture on the back of the shirt. So for a milisecond I was completely at a loss as to why she would want me to turn around. And the host called me "mom" and I wasn't sure who's mom she was talking to. Plus the hair thing and the lingering thought that the camera adds 10 pounds. Anyway, there's our 23 seconds of fame! (And Tammi comped me this shirt for showing my backside on TV. Well, well worth it!!)

Oh, BY ALL MEANS do click on over to and order some shirts! They are precious!!

And if you haven't yet, I sincerely hope you catch the "adoption bug" in your family. You'll never be the same! Adoption ROCKS!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Soup On The Spot (And Menu-Monday-On-Tuesday)

Well we've sure had our share of rainy, cold weather lately. From looking at the radar, it seems like many of us have! Here are the kids on our annual trip to the State Fair of Texas in front of Big Tex. You can see the gray skies behind him, but the rain held off for a cool, crisp afternoon and evening of fun at the fair last week! In true form, I ate all of the disgustingly awesome fried food I could handle. I. Love. It. This is one time per year that I own up to my fried-food-loving tendencies, and give in to them. Filed in the "Oh Yes I Did" file this year: fried Snickers, fried Oreos, and (OHYESIDID)- Deep Fried Butter. It was actually like a really buttery biscuit ball. Oh, yummo. Add that to the funnel cake our family shared and the tamales I didn't share with anyone, and it was a veritable smorgasbord-orgasbord-orgasbord of gastrointestinal fun.

So, now you may not ever want to read my menus or try one of my recipes again. Ever.

But in case you still do, here's a soup I made up on Sunday! I know this may not earth-shattering to anyone but me but I've never started with just a boiling pot of water and just added ingredients before. It was lots of fun, and turned out yummy! Now that I'm feeling all chef-ish and creative, I thought I'd share! I'll even come up with a fun name:

Cyndi's Sunday Soup on the Spot

chicken (whatever's left in the bag of frozen chicken... 1-3 breasts or 5 tenderloins)
1 cup (ish) frozen corn
1 15 oz. can red beans (drained)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
2 tsp. powdered taco seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. minced onion
2 tsp. parsley flakes

(In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that I just added the measurments above. I was just shaking, sprinkling and stirring, so I'm not sure how much of anything I really used. Except the cans.)

Boil chicken in a medium-sized pot. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove and shred. Add tomatoes, beans and corn and minced onions to chicken stock and stir until corn is cooked. Sprinkle in onion, garlic and parsley. Add shredded chicken back to soup and stir until warmed. Serve with crunched up tortilla chips and maybe a dollup of low-fat sour cream.

And now for Monday Menu: Tuesday Edition (which seems to be my new thing, LOL)

Monday: Hawaiian Meatballs, brown rice, stir fry
Tuesday: Out
Wednesday: Ethiopian night! Ye'Doro Wet (spicy chicken), Gommen (spicy collard greens)
Thursday: Baked Spaghetti Pie, green beans, garlic bread
Friday: Black Eye & Vegetable Chili (from Fix It and Forget It), cornbread

For more menus and some GREAT organization tips, visit Laura at Have a yummy week!

Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm Sure Bono Would Approve

A few months ago I *almost* ordered U2 tickets, but felt a tug not to... wasn't sure why.

Turns out, the money I would've used is helping my husband and I RETURN IN JUST A FEW DAYS to "where the streets have no name."

I'm sure Bono would approve. :)

(More details coming soon. I'm SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Movie Worth Seeing

Our family saw this over the weekend. It was incredible. Great for the whole family!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yesterday Last Year... Yesterday This Year

September 9, 2008~ We had just completed the 20+ hours of travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, slept as well as we could between jet lag, adrenaline, and the braying of donkeys in the street outside of our room. Bleary-eyed but excitedly we got up early the next morning and headed to a coffee shop to wait for our orphanage director to meet us with our precious new son. What a surreal moment! We ran up to him as he exited her car and had a wonderful meeting... complete with a mom/son embrace, me touching his sweet head about 27 times and Luke scooping him up in a big bear hug. Before we headed over to the US Embassy we paused for this quick photo:

September 9, 2009~ We woke up thoroughly rested, the 5 of us in our home, together for the 363rd night. After Luke and Bethany left (he took her to her writing class near his office), the boys and I had a fun morning of donuts, reading aloud and watching "Walker: Texas Ranger" which the boys faithfully DVR. We met Luke and Bethany for lunch (after he picked her up from writing class) and had a fun "adoption day" lunch at Taco Bueno, reminiscent of the first meal we had once we hit US soil upon our return last year. We stopped at Target on the way home and Minte picked out a new Lego set, his new passion. I also grabbed a coffee at Starbucks. (Adoption Day must include coffee, after all!) He spent the afternoon building with Legos and then we picked up a friend of his on the way to where we celebrated Adoption Day with family at a pizza/arcade/go-cart/laser tag place. After a fun evening of celebrating with some friends and extended family, we stopped for this quick photo:

As I look at those two sets of smiling faces, exactly a year apart, I can't help but think of so many memories of this past year. God has been so good during Minte's transition into our family. In many ways it seems he's always been here. In just as many ways it's hard to believe it's already been a year. Time seems slow and fast at once. Happiness and joy over our newly-formed family coexist with the sadness and grief that comes with adoption. There is a comfortable familiarity but still much to learn about each other.

Through it all, there is one constant- love. The instantaneous, indescribable love we felt for him the moment we embraced him, as well as the abiding, never-failing love of our Heavenly Father Who has held us all during this entire process. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Works For Me: Don't Wake Mommy

This morning I was sipping my coffee and browsing blogs (AKA "procrastinating") when I realized it was Wednesday. (Wow, this week is really flying by!) Of course then I realized that in blogland it's "Works-for-me-Wednesday," the day when many of us share what makes our lives easier. I sat for a moment, looked at the chaos in my schoolroom (due to the aforementioned procrastination), thought through my kitchen routine, chore charts, etc. and came to the realization that I must have already posted every single thing that works for me. Of course, the disorder in my immediate vicinity reminds me that I've yet to find some things that work for me, so that wouldn't be post-worthy for today! "Hm. Oh well," I thought. "Nothing new to post."

Until just now, as I walked in my bedroom and saw something that has worked for me for years and I've yet to post about.

Sleeping bags.

My kids are 15-almost-16, 13, and 10- our 10 yo having just joined our family just under a year ago, adopted from Ethiopia. What I saw in my bedroom this morning were two sleeping bags in the floor where my two boys (13 and 10) had valiantly slept last night because their Dad is traveling on business this week and they wanted to sleep downstairs with Mom. As I folded up those sleeping bags and returned them to their positions under the foot and side of my bed, I thought about how many times those sleeping bags have been used since the older two were very young.

Years ago, I had two little ones who didn't like to stay in their rooms at night. Sometimes it was bad dreams, sometimes a noise outside woke them in the night, sometimes a thunderstorm was frightening... so they ended up where many little ones end up- in Mommy and Daddy's bed. At first I really didn't mind because I love the snuggles, but after about oh, say 90 seconds of that I was ready to go back to sleep. Finally, we got out the big fluffy camping sleeping bags and let them sleep on the floor of our room and we were all back to sleep faster- the kids felt secure and cozy being in our room and we had our bed back to ourselves. One morning all those years ago, instead of rolling the sleeping bags back up and storing them in the top of the closet again, I simply folded each one in half, one length-wise and stored under the side of the bed, and one width-wise and slid under the end of the bed.

Over the years, if anyone has needed to come crash in our room for whatever reason- a tummy ache, sleeplessness, fear, or just for security, they can simply come in with their pillow, slide out the sleeping bag, crash and not wake Mom. (Dad has the gift of being able to drift immediately back to sleep... not me.) Sometimes I have woken up in the pre-dawn hours when I love to get up, only to almost step on someone's head who I had no idea came in during the night. I love it! They found the security they needed and it didn't involve me waking up. Yesss! :)

I don't know what the books say. I'm sure there are plenty that suggest they should go right back to their own rooms. I'm sure there are loads of techniques to teach them how to do that and research to back up why that is optimal. I don't know, and since it's not "What the Experts Say Wednesday" I don't really care, LOL. This is what has worked for me. I do know I have a 16 year old who stays in her own room, never crashes on a sleeping bag in my room, and hasn't in years. She grew up sleeping many, many nights (sometimes weeks on end) on the floor in my room but when she was 12 she stayed for 6 weeks in China without her parents. I have three very independent kids who, now that they are older, readily fall asleep in their own rooms and stay there. I also know that in many parts of the world, entire families (even multiple generations) sleep in the same room due to tradition as well as space limitations. I also know that these years are fleeting. Soon they will be out of my house, and having those little feet pad into my room, slip a sleeping bag out from under the bed and sigh themselves back to sleep will be a distant memory. It's already a fading memory as it is! I also know that I function WAY better the next day when I've slept a-l-l night, and this system has helped me do just that. Additionally, I think this has let them know that they are always welcome in our room, that our door is always open to them no matter what, and I think that fosters security in other areas, bonding with our new son, and may even explain why my older two are so independent.

So sleeping bags and "don't wake Mommy" works for me!

For more ideas or to share your own, visit We Are That Family. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Menu and Simple Shortcuts

"...they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart."
Acts 2:46

Happy Monday! I know that many of you have kids who are starting school this week, so for those of you kicking off your school year I hope it's been an extra wonderful day. We start next week, so I'm busy finishing my planning for our homeschool year. I can't believe I've been doing it for 11 years. The time really flies by! Even though we often veer from the plan, it really helps to anchor everything with a plan, just like in the kitchen! I've been making those plans today while taking breaks to make a Coca Cola Cake and simmer some black beans, so I'm just now getting a chance for some afternoon coffee and some time to blog.

Last week I really enjoyed cooking from Fix It and Enjoy It Healthy Cookbook. We had the Summer Squash Salad and Sesame Broccoli as sides one night, and Tomato Barley soup (pictured below) another night. They were so good! I was surprised at how my family especially loved the two veggie dishes. We're not really very veggie. Go us!

During the weekend when we were reheating and enjoying the soup, I put a very SIMPLE panini sandwich with it. I've posted this recipe for Chicken Pesto Paninis on my menus over the past couple of years because it became an instant hit at our house. At first I made it just like the recipe suggested, using focaccia bread, diced chicken, bell pepper, etc. But as with all things in the kitchen I started looking for shortcuts and made it simpler and now it's one of my family's favorite quick meals! Last week I posted my shortcut recipe for the Easiest Bruschetta Ever, so with that in mind, I'm sharing my very simplified recipe for the Easiest Chicken Panini Ever. (I'm thinking I may follow with a series on The Easiest Ethiopian Recipes Ever, because I've really been simplifying some of my Ethiopian cooking and my family -especially my Ethiopian- really loves it!)


The Easiest Chicken Panini Ever

Bread (fancy focaccia or wheat cut on the bias if you have it, sliced sandwich bread if you don't)
Pesto sauce (I use jarred Classico Basil)
Shaved or sliced chicken
Any type of cheese you prefer (usually shredded cheddar here)
George Foreman grill or panini grill (I use the GF!)

Spread a bit of pesto on both slices of bread, top with chicken and cheese. Spray the grill with some olive oil spray and preheat. Put the sandwich together and grill for approximately 4 minutes. So simple and so yummy!


Here is our menu for the rest of the week:

Monday: Chicken Enchiladas, black beans, Mexican corn
Tuesday: Penne Rigate with Chicken, green beans, salad, garlic bread
Wednesday: Ethiopian night! Ye'Tibs Wet (spicy beef), Gommen (collard greens), injera bread
Thursday: YO YO- "You're On Your Own"
Friday: Out to eat

For more recipes and menu ideas, or to share yours visit Laura at She's also got some GREAT organization tips each week.

I hope you've had a marvelous Monday and have a yummy week!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Guarding My Mind

Maybe you don't struggle with fear or worry like I do. Maybe you get to the end of each day, lay your head on your pillow and drift quickly to sleep without taking any of the worries of the day with you. I hope that's the case, I really do! But that's not how it is for me. As much as I try to pray, give it all to God and not worry, things creep into my mind especially as I'm laying in bed trying to go to sleep. Or even worse, when I wake up in the middle of the night.

Being a mom is hard. There is so much to grapple with, coordinate and think about! We are dealing with every aspect of our family's health and well-being, running a home, and as is the case for homeschooling moms like me, we are are also coordinating their educations. I rely on many well-chosen books that I am regularly reading to help me. God has been so faithful to guide me to some good authors and sound advice. But, the truth is, as great as it is to snuggle in with a good book before I go to sleep, I don't always need to read that advice right before bed. Because, if I do, then I'm wrestling with the "issue du jour" when what I need to be doing is... resting. So, I've begun saving my "informative reading" for the morning or daytime hours. I've got a few minutes here or there, while I'm waiting outside of lessons or (as is the case in the summers) by the pool. It's so much easier to take in and assimilate information regarding stressful situations raising teenagers or my own health concerns in the mornings after I've read my Bible, while the sunlight is streaming through the windows, the birds are chirping, I'm enjoying coffee or on a summer afternoon sipping iced tea by the pool or maybe for an afternoon break by a sunny window or on the porch. The information may be heavy but the environment is not. At night it is dark. Sometimes for me it can even seem oppressive. Things seem more final. More worrisome. That is the time to read Scriptures, uplifting books, stories of hope, (especially books like 31 Days of Praise) or any book that declares God's sovereignty and power. That is what I need in the forefront of my mind as I drift off to sleep, not a bunch of "what-ifs," either from fictional scenarios in books or TV shows, or even well-meaning child-rearing advice.

So, what "works for me" is being more deliberate about when I read certain information. Knowing when I can best read it without fear taking root. Knowing when I need to bathe my mind with hope and power, reminding myself of Who's in control.

To read more of what works for others, or to share something that works for you, visit Kristin at We Are That Family. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Menu Monday: Tuesday Edition and the Easiest Bruschetta Recipe Ever

I have blogged so infrequently in recent months. What is up?? Well, life. I know I say this all the time after I've gone through long periods without blogging, but sometimes you're too busy livin' the thing to blog about it. That's definitely been the case for us this spring and summer.

So, yes I know it's Tuesday, but I'm just going to have to blog like I Twitter and Facebook... when it pops into my mind and I can grab a few minutes. Which would be now.

I feel like I'm not ready for summer to be over, but VERY ready for a routine. Somehow the freedom of summer can get stressful for me as we flit from one activity to another. One way I have stayed "anchored" this summer is to continue with menu planning. Last summer I posted my reasons why it's even more beneficial to me to menu plan during the summer months. It truly has been a life saver for me as I feel so out of control some days! I regained some feeling of order during the early spring, once we had been home for a few months with our newly-adopted son. Once summer came I felt a bit disorganized once again, but my menu plan has helped greatly!

This week my husband has some outdoor projects he's working on after work, so we've been eating dinner later (as in, after the sun goes down.) I've tried to have an appetizer available when he comes in from the office at around 5:ish or so to tide everyone over until our 8:00-ish dinner. Tonight I remembered this Extremely Easy Bruschetta recipe I've used and my family loves. But I was in the midst of school planning and laundry folding and wanted to make it even easier. I'm the queen of shortcuts in the kitchen (and have found some wonderful ones in my Ethiopian cooking, which I hope to share in future weeks!) so if you are really into fresh ingredients this one may not be for you. But tonight it was either shortcut time or no appetizer at all. This one totally worked!


Easiest Bruschetta Ever

1 can diced chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup (or so) frozen chopped onions (<--- LOVE keeping these on hand!)
1/2 tsp jarred minced garlic (available in the produce section)
kosher salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
olive oil to taste

Dump the tomatoes into a strainer and rinse. While in the strainer put the onions in and run water over them to quick-thaw them. Once the water has drained out put them into a mixing bowl and add other ingredients and stir. Cover the mixing bowl and pop it into the fridge. This time I used the oven broiler to toast some Orowheat Whole Grain and Flax bread (See? Not even fancy French bread!). Once the bread was toasted I used the pizza cutter to cut each piece into fourths and then while it was hot I rubbed a bit of the jarred garlic over each piece. By that time the bruschetta was chilled (aided in part by the frozen-now-thawed onions) and voila! A quick, healthy and very fast appetizer!


This week I'm utilizing a cook book I got a few weeks ago and am just now getting a chance to really try. I have been a fan of Fix It and Forget It (affectionately called "Fifi" in my menu planning binder) for years now. This one is the Fix It and Enjoy It Healthy Cookbook. Tuesday's side dishes and both of Friday's recipes are from that this week. Now that it's Tuesday night, I can report that both the sesame broccoli and the summer squash salad were wonderful! My family loved both of those! And we're not particularly veggie people, so that's saying a lot!

So, here's our menu for the week:

Monday: Crock Pot Chicken Tacos, black beans, corn casserole
Tuesday: Grilled pork chops, sesame broccoli, summer squash salad
Wednesday: YO-YO (You're on you're own!)
Thursday: Ethiopian food night: Ye' Assa Wet (spicy fish stew- SO good!), Ye be seleh Dinich (boiled potatos with peppers) eaten with injera bread
Friday: Tomato & Barley Soup, Tossed Chicken Salad

For more menus and some GREAT organizing tips and inspiration, visit Laura at I hope you're having a wonderful week!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Enduring Grace

Wouldn't it be great if I had a fun, splashy, summer-y photo to the left of this post? Maybe a shot of my kids having a great time at the pool together... or maybe one of Minte zipping down the slip-n-slide, or playing at the water park where we finally bought memberships this year. Or maybe catching a big fish, like he finally did last week. Or hitting golf balls at the driving range, or being silly at Vacation Bible School or enjoying time with cousins. All of these pictures would go perfect with this post. But, I don't have them. Either they are living on the memory card inside my camera (which is at the lake with the rest of my family) or I didn't snap photos... they are simply in my mind. But that is what our summer has been like so far. So fun, so blessed.

I can't believe it's been a month since I've blogged! In that month we have swam, played, enjoyed a visit from my brother and his precious family, enjoyed some activities with family friends who are hosting a wonderful foreign exchange student from France, felt the heat index climb to almost 110 and then feel "cool" when it gets down to the mid-90's... ah, summer in Texas. All good stuff!

We are having a great summer, but I'm not very "together" at the moment! I guess saying that implies that at times I *do* have it "together," and that's probably not the case. It's just that I'm in a season where God has lifted the veil, the scales have fallen from my eyes, and I've realized how very little I really have "together." Ack!!! Not a fun realization. But that's where my faithful Heavenly Father steps in and reminds me that it's been Him all along, not me. Any shred of "togetherness" is always Him. And that's what I'm trying to tap into once more.

But, I'm tired. I'm trying to find the motivation to organize a few areas of my house. I'm trying to stick with a particularly challenging Bible study topic. I'm REALLY trying to get our upcoming school year organized and I'm finding I'm caught between logging/recording last year's work and planning next year's work. I'm experiencing "analysis paralysis." I'm trying to be a good steward of our money. I'm trying to stay faithful to my workouts at the gym, which I started back in the spring. Ugh. So much! How I need God's faithful, sovereign, ever-present grace. I need what John Piper calls God's "sustaining grace."

In His sovereignty, God ordained that I would listen to a Piper podcast on this very morning about this very thing. Endurance. And in His wisdom, He knew that I would hear this poem that would help me remember what His "enduring grace" really is, and how it puts it all in perspective. How I love this about my God. He knows what I need to hear, when I need to hear it. I didn't need this as much a few weeks ago as I did this very morning, and He ordained that I would hear it now. I'm sharing it with you, and maybe it's just for such a time as this that you are reading this today.

According to Piper, God's sustaining grace is:

"Not grace that bars what is not bliss
Nor flight from all distress but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain,
And then in the darkness is there to sustain."

SO helpful to me today. The faith I've had in the past, the trajectory my spiritual life has been on in previous months and years will not guarantee my path today. Only God's sovereign grace will keep me a believer, will keep me on the path on which I need to walk. He'll get me over the obstacles. He'll keep me believing. What a promise!

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Am Second. Third, Actually. Maybe Even Fourth.

Maybe you've seen the billboards around your area, or the website advertised: I Am Second. The meaning behind it is that you are second behind Jesus. When Bethany went on her mission trip to Mexico in March, their motto was "I Am Third," meaning, that first is Jesus, second is others, third is yourself. I think that is pretty appropriate! I learned years ago that that is what J.O.Y. stands for- Jesus, Others, Yourself. Remembering that helps me keep lots of things in perspective in my daily interactions and expectations.

This spring, I have thought of those words in a different way. As an adoptive mom, I am not the first mom that Minte ever had. Since he was in the care of others for 5 years before he came home to live with us, I'm not really even the second. I am third. I've read a lot of blogs in the adoption world, and there are as many opinions about how to refer to this as their are bloggers and families. I certainly don't think the way we have done things is the only "right" way (or even right at all some days!) but I certainly have no problem taking my place as "third" in order of the caregivers in his life. Maybe even fourth, now that I think of it!

This past Mother's Day was an important day. A year ago (and the year before that), Minte was in an orphanage, wondering if he would ever have another mother, hoping that a family would adopt him. This year... here he is! Of course, he had never heard of such a holiday. They don't have "Mother's Day" in Ethiopia. So, when the day came, we explained to him what it was. As we began talking about Mother's Day, it became evident (and very obvious) that it wasn't just about me, his American mother. When he came home to live with us here, his (now deceased) Ethiopian parents came too, in a very real way. They are talked about and remembered in some way in our home every day. They are part of his every day conversation and a very real memory for him. So, how could we leave out his Ethiopian mother on Mother's Day? We decided to plant a rose bush for her in the back yard. I asked him if he wanted to plant something, light a candle, release a balloon... other things I had heard/read about. He chose to plant something. When he and his Dad went to the store for the rose bush, they came back with two because he wanted to plant one for me, too. Isn't that sweet? Here is what we ended up doing on Mother's Day... our "Mother's Day Garden:"

I love the way it turned out! His Ethiopian mother's rose bush is on the left, and mine is on the right. The purple flowers in the middle are for the relative who cared for him before he came to the orphanage, and the yellow flowers are for all the "mommies" at the orphanage. The stone in the middle is so appropriate: Ecclesiastes 3:2, "To everything there is a season..." All of us have had our season in this precious boy's life. Some object to referring to oneself as "2nd mommy" or "3rd mommy" in a child's life because that implies that there may be someone after you. Well? None of us knows what tomorrow holds. I can't be certain I will be the last and final mommy he ever has, but this garden reminds me that God is there at every season and will bring just the people into his life to care for him when it is time. This is my season, and I'm just glad to be a part of God's plan for this amazing young man, whether I'm his final mommy (which I hope I am!) or not. God is so faithful.

As Father's Day approached, we asked him what he would like to do, and decided with him that we would plant a tree for his Ethiopian father. We have a shady little nook outside our dining room window that is perfect for a Japanese Maple. It is a window we look out of everyday, so he will be able to see it all the time. Yesterday he and his brother and dad took some time to plant the tree.

I love the way this turned out, too! The tree will grow to about 6 feet tall (about as tall as his American dad), and will be a constant reminder of his precious Ethiopian father, who had so much to do with the man Minte will one day be. As I watched those precious boys (and dad) plant that tree, I was reminded of Psalm 1, and the fact that I've written their names beside that Psalm in my Bible. Oh how I pray that they would be planted like well-watered trees because they meditate on God's Word, whose leaves will not wither and that whatever they do will prosper. What a wonderful reminder! The stone at the bottom of this tree is Psalm 25:4 "Show me Thy ways O Lord, teach me Thy paths."

Hopefully we have helped him to feel like he has honored the memory of his precious Ethopian parents who loved him so much. He knows he was loved and because of that has been able to readily receive our love. It's important for him to know he can remember them. He can miss them. He can talk about them, and most importantly- honor them. These first Mother's and Father's Days have been important milestones in our family. We are so blessed.

Ten Things I Love About My Dad

by Minte, Father's Day 2009

When I helped Minte make his Father's Day card for Luke, I asked him to tell me ten things he loves about his dad. (He's been here about 10 months and he is 10 years old, so that number seemed about right!)

Here's his "top ten," exactly as he said it. :)

1. "He takes us to gun range place."
2. "He play with me, like play baseball or football."
3. "He taught me how to play golf today. There's a lot of things he taught me... like bike, swim..."
4. "He let us mow the back yard and the front. And teach us."
5. "He doesn't drink alcohol."
6. "He's a good father."
7. "I will have fun with him."
8. "He love us."
9. "He's good at playing golf."
10. "We love him because he loves Jesus."