Monday, March 23, 2009
Oh how I love this picture! I post it almost every year... it's at a state park in Oklahoma, where we are headed tomorrow. My daughter took this photo a few years ago, the first year we went. I just love looking at it! I can just feel the spring breeze rustling through the tall trees, hear the birds and the sound of the water trickling... We've had such fun times there, where we've "camped" at different times in cabins and also RV's. My 12 year old told me yesterday that it is his most favorite place on earth. We are so blessed that we've been able to create memories there together, both as a family on trips alone, and in groups of 9 or more families. (In fact, it was there that we first filled out our adoption application at Thanksgiving. Last March, we imagined that we would be going back to the cabin this year with a baby girl in our arms. Isn't it funny how God works?)
Today as I looked at this picture again, I noticed something else I hadn't really focused on before: the rocks. I noticed them because of something I read this morning during my quiet time. I was in the midst of bringing some difficult things before the Lord. So many things are weighing heavily on my mind and heart. There are situations around the world and circumstances in the lives of those I love that I can't imagine how God will work out, but I know He will. There are individuals for whom I'm praying, for whom I ache so deeply and in whose lives I so earnestly want to see God glorified. I was reading something this morning that encouraged me to think about what God has done "thus far." I have a hard time doing this (in my fleshly nature), especially with certain people in mind, because I hate to hang my hat on how things are, even when things are good. Certain battles rage on in the lives of some of my loved ones, and it could go either way. Truly, God promises victory for those who trust in Him, but sometimes in this Genesis 3 world, that victory happens on the other side of eternity. Sometimes it seems I pray while holding my breath! A victorious walk with the Lord is such a day-by-day thing.
I was so glad to be directed to 1 Samuel 7:8 today. The Israelites were in the midst of a fierce battle with their ever-present foe. They asked the prophet Samuel to "not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that He may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines." He faithfully prayed. God's people won the battle. That battle. Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it up not far from the battlefield, and named it "Ebenezer" which means "stone of help." I absolutely love verse 12, "Thus far the Lord helped us." Thus far. The ongoing struggle with the Philistines was hardly over. They had not conquered them forever. Their enemy had been around a long time, and would continue to be. But it was time to stop and thank God for the "thus far" victory.
And then keep praying.
Samuel knew it wasn't over forever, but that didn't keep him from publicly giving God the glory for what He had done thus far. Long after that, even generations later, God's people (who were still fighting the same enemy) could continue to look at that stone and remember the "thus far" deliverance and continue to trust God for the "what's to come." I have needed to do this, especially in the realm of mothering. So much of what we do as mothers is a work in progress, and all of it is so uncertain. All of our efforts are going toward a time that we will never see. Thankfully, God assured me through His Word this morning that it is a Phil. 1:6 work-in-progress. He started it and will see it through. But we are here for the "thus far," and can give Him glory for the fruit we do see, while praying for the bigger picture. I took time this morning to visualize every difficult situation that weighs so heavily on my heart, and to really see the people for whom I am praying. Across each scenario in my mind's eye, I mentally stamped the words "Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us..." I was convicted this morning that I need to redouble my prayer efforts in certain areas, for certain people, thanking God for the "thus far" victories... no matter how small.
Now, when I look at the above vacation photo, I see the stones. I see them one after another in the midst of the water, a succession of "thus fars." That's what this life is, really, this walk with God...this motherhood journey. I'm so thankful I'm not walking it alone!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Doesn't that sound perfect?
I will never look at magazine articles in the same way again! Do you know why? Because the family described above was my family a couple of weeks ago. Now when I see such an article, instead of assuming or imagining how perfect they might be or how perfectly decorated their house is, I might imagine what's going on in the Mom's mind...
"Okay, I hate this lamp. I wish it weren't in the picture.... And don't move that throw off of the arm of the chair! The upholstery is worn and there's a hole!"
"Oh, great. Pictures of us cooking... and I didn't "stage" the kitchen. SO much stuff on the countertops!"
"Really? A shot of my profile? I hate my profile!"
"Hmm. Glasses on or glasses off?..."
"Oh good, a photo op in the game room, with shelves in the background piled with disorganized games... the one place in the house I would never have shown anyone..."
And on and on and on it went. Every insecurity I had came with me to that interview in my home two weeks ago. Every single one. I absolutely hate having photos taken. Unfortunately, they tend to look just like me. For me, it's a bit like hearing my recorded voice ("I sound like that?") only in picture form. ("Is THIS what I look like?") Ugh. And the house. Our decor is a time capsule, frozen in time in about 2001 (and everything we bought up to that point.) And my word. Do I ever ramble.
But you know what? The article is about us and our adoption story. Thankfully, the title of the article is not "How A Perfect Family with A Perfect Home Can Adopt The Perfect Child And Look Good Doing It." Thank goodness! Because we're not, we don't, we didn't and we don't. (Or at least I don't, LOL.) Who would that help, anyway?
Maybe, next time you see a photo of a plaid couch or a cluttered kitchen, or a woman with not the cutest haircut, or wearing an outfit just this side of in style... it might be that that woman gave up recreational decorating, clothes shopping and hair color to afford international mission trips and a subsequent adoption. Maybe she agreed to the interview so she could show how big her God is and hopefully get more older kids adopted into more homes. Maybe God gave her a heaping helping of grace that day to get her through that interview. Behind that smile might just be one of the most insecure people you could ever meet.
And it just might be me.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I read enough blogs and have been around the WFMW block enough to know that chore and laundry schedules are nothing new and have been shared repeatedly. But, this is Works for Me Wednesday... and I haven't shared mine yet! Besides, I was thinking just yesterday how this really. works. for. me.
Scheduling my laundry has become a sanity saver for me, ranking right up there with planning meals. It has freed my mind (and my hands which used to fold laundry at all types of odd times, or dig through mounds of clean clothes trying to find something someone needed). I decided a couple of years ago to do laundry according to people, not loads. The following schedule is currently posted in our laundry room:
I have found it best to do laundry, for the most part, according to the owner (each member of the family), rather than category (combining everyone's lights, darks, etc.) With the exception of cleaning rags, which I do on Mondays because of weekend cleaning, car washing, home projects etc. And towels and bed linens which I do on Fridays, each person gets a day. When Minte came home, I put him on Kyle's day, since their dirty clothes live in the same hamper.
I love how there is a sense of completion each day. Yesterday, all of mine and my husband's clothes were done. Today is my daughter's day. Tomorrow will be the boys. Each day, ALL of someone's clothes are completely washed, folded and put away. It is so much more manageable for me. I have found it's easier to sort socks, since it's just one or two people's. (I can handle a small basket of one or two people's clean underwear to fold, but not a couch full of everyones!) I can more easily keep track of uniforms, too (which still go in their designated spot). I like to hang some things to dry, which takes up a lot of room if it's everyone's, but much less space if it's just one person. I found that when I was doing lights one day, darks another, etc. parts or pieces of outfits a particular person needed were always missing or at some other stage of the laundry continuum... but now, everything that person wears is clean at one time.
I love this schedule because I don't do any laundry or folding on the weekend, when we're either really busy or need the clothes. My kids are old enough to fold their own clothes now, so the chore schedule on their particular laundry day is lighter to afford them more time to fold and put theirs away. On their laundry day they only have one other chore in addition to taking care of their laundry, so that's been a big help. By scheduling it this way, there's a light at the end of the laundry tunnel each day. And I need that!
Laundry is never ending. By God's grace, we are an active family generating lots of dirty clothes. This is a huge blessing! Lots of laundry indicates an adequate amount of clothes. Having plenty of clothing is truly a gift. Managing our laundry this way has helped me to see it more as the blessing it is, than the burden it used to feel like . Works for me!
For more WFMW ideas, or to share your own tip, visit We Are That Family. Have a wonderful Wednesday!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendor of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s host to secure me
against snares of devils
against temptations of vices
against inclinations of nature
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Thrones,
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.
~ St. Patrick
Sunday, March 15, 2009
There's a new vocabulary word! (Well, at least it was new to me!) That's exactly what this post is. I don't seem to take as much time to blog as I have in the past... maybe I'll get to in the future. On this lazy, spring-breaky Sunday afternoon, Luke and the boys are having a "guys day" at an outdoor store and the gun club, and my sweet daughter is on a mission trip. So, I've finally got a few minutes to post some things. Since I go most days with a blog post brewing in my mind, most of which never make it to the screen, this will be a mishmash of miscellaneous "mini-posts." (Monday Menu is at the bottom.)
Half of My Heart
I am currently wearing half of this necklace. The other half is in Mexico with my daughter as she is on a mission trip this week. Back in 2004 when Luke and Bethany made their first trip to Ghana, we got the necklace. Since then, whoever goes takes half of it, and the other half stays here. Whether I go or stay, I wear it, but usually if Luke stays home, it hangs on the lamp by his side of the bed. Bethany used to wear it, but now she usually tucks it into her passport case. Of course, my favorite trips are when we ALL go, and the necklace stays at home, but due to finances and vacation time from work, that can't always be the case... When Luke traveled to Ethiopia in January, he took half of it with him in his backpack, while I wore the other half. When he came home from the trip, he put his half by my jewelry box in the little felt jewelry pouch, so I could put it away. I remember seeing it there... and then for some reason when I went to put it away later I couldn't find it. I was so sad! That half a necklace has been around the world and back so many times! I was so aggravated with myself, and I still have no idea where it is. One day last week, my sweet husband emailed me from work and told me to look behind a picture frame in our bedroom. There, tucked behind it, was a small James Avery box with a new Gen. 31:49 charm in it. He knew it was important to me, so that we could send half of it with our daughter this week. Isn't that sweet that he replaced it? I'm still praying that I find that original half, but my prayer was with Phil. 4:19 in mind... "my God shall supply all my needs." I prayed that if I needed it, I would find it and if I didn't find it, that I would be content without it. I had left it up to God, and He responded by prompting my cute husband to buy a new one. So, Luke took the opportunity to bless me, and I got a reminder that our Lord cares about even the smallest thing. A double blessing!
As I mentioned, our daughter is in Mexico this week. (I just realized a couple of days ago that this is her 10th international mission trip! Isn't God amazing??) She is with a dynamic team of top-notch students from our Awana Journey group. They are being led by some of the most gifted and Godly leaders I could ever imagine, and will be partnering with a wonderful church there. They will get the opportunity to participate in orphan care, some painting and construction, and community outreach. If you think about her, please pray for Bethany and the wonderful team she is with. God is poised to do a mighty work this week, and that is never without opposition. It has not been a "problem free" trip so far, so our prayers are definitely needed. It has been said that "The history of missions is the history of answered prayer." (S. Zwemer) I truly believe that to be true. Dick Eastman said, "In no other way can the believer become as fully involved with God's work, especially the work of world evangelism, as in intercessory prayer." There is simply no substitute for interceding for a lost world and those who are responsive to the call to go. May God receive all glory for the great things He will do this week in Mexico and all over the world, through the work of those who are on mission for Him and the prayers of those at home.
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to participate in our agency's "Heritage Day." It was such a fun event, where internationally and domestically adopted children and their families could come and experience a bit of the culture and food from their countries of origin. Our family was privileged to help out in the Ethiopia room, performing the puppet show we had done at Minte's orphanage on our adoption trip, the Ethiopian folktale, Silly Mammo. It was so fun to see the other families who are in the Ethiopia program, as well as meet some new families. I am so thankful for an agency who has events such as this to connect us with our child's culture, but also the adoption community. At the end, they had a wonderful Ethiopian praise and worship group sing, and also had a martial arts school perform... two things that are close to Minte's heart. (He just recently received his yellow belt in karate, and Kyle has his orange belt so far.) God is so faithful to provide opportunities like that!
I have been really, really working to become more organized. I am not kidding when I have referred to being in a "fog" in the months surrounding this adoption. I already tend toward procrastination as it is, so when I get preoccupied things can really pile up. By God's grace, I have been able to restore order to several key areas of my life in recent weeks. First among them: school, which I feel has been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants effort this year. Another is simply clutter control. Thankfully, that has gotten better lately. I really have felt like I wasn't "looking well to the ways of my household" (Prov. 31) in recent months, and I finally feel a sense that I'm on the other side of a very disorganized season. If you are having difficulty in this area, let me encourage you! I understand! Stick with a schedule and a routine, try not to "eat the bread of idleness" and keep working at it in the 1 Pet. 4:11 "strength God provides." It will get better.
I've never been very "thrifty." I'm one to use a coupon for a box of cereal, but then go spend an inordinately large amount of money on a new purse. I go through seasons of saving, or at least not spending as much... then I go on a shopping spree. I'm just not very disciplined in that area. I've gotten better over the years, but it's been slow going. By no stretch am I dismissing it or saying "Well, that's just how I am." I've really had to rethink my spending habits and let God do a Romans 12:1-2 renewal of my mind in this area. I found that, as a homeschooler I sort of "baptized" my spending. I would channel my spendthrifty habits toward school. ("We need this. It's for the kids.") I have such a patient husband! Bethany is taking a Financial Peace University class this spring, and it's been really good for her. I wish I had learned those principles when I was in high school! By God's incredible grace, in recent weeks, we have been able to finally be in a position of having no debt except our mortgage. Yey!!! Many of you have lived this way for years, and to that I say a sincere, heartfelt "Good for you!" I mean it! In recent years we have just now "caught on" to God's vision for our finances, so when I say "by God's grace" I mean just that. We remain a one-career, homeschooling family living on an average "middle class" income, and it simply astounds me what God will do when you simply yield your spending to Him. I'm amazed. A friend we met at the Ethiopia Guest Home last September has a wonderful website full of great money-saving tips: The Penny-Wise Family. I encourage you to check it out! After our journey over the past several years, I can honestly say that nothing feels as good to buy as debt-free feels.
I recently finished the Bible study, Stepping Up. It had been awhile since I had done a Beth Moore study, and I really enjoyed it. (I know she's been called "emotionally charged" before, but sometimes I need that. At times I respond well to "emotionally charged" as long as it's theologically accurate, which this study was. In fact, recently I was listening to John Piper and realized he could be described as "emotionally charged", too. And really, is that always a bad thing?) I really enjoyed this particular study, as it focuses on the Psalms of Ascent, and I always l-o-v-e camping out in the Psalms. Whenever I need spiritual refreshment or for God to change my heart in key ways, turning me towards Himself, I always find myself in the Psalms. Next, I'm doing Mary Kassian's study Conversation Peace: The Power of Transformed Speech. Can you tell what God's dealing with me on now? LOL
Calling All Movers
We had fun last weekend going to see the Imagination Movers in concert. We had our first-ever Mom-Dad-Minte-only outing, and it was so fun! Our other two enjoyed one-on-one time with some other family members and Luke and I treated Minte to breakfast out and seeing some people from his favorite television show in real life! He was so excited! In fact, I have to say that I haven't seen him this visibly, demonstrably excited about anything since he's been home. It was so worth it to watch him light up like that. (If you don't know who in the world I'm talking about, either you don't have preschoolers or you don't have the Disney channel. A few months ago, I wouldn't have known either!) Our older kids have been so sweet to make sure Minte gets the opportunity to enjoy things for "younger" kids without being made fun of or made to feel it's "uncool." He didn't have these opportunities when he was preschool aged, and quite frankly, these songs/shows are at his pace language-wise. I have felt really strongly since before he came home that he would be allowed the opportunity to go through all of the "phases" my other two did. So, we watch Barney, play with play-doh, make snow cones, finger paint, read stories and do puppets... all of the things I did when they were younger. If you are adopting an older child, don't feel like you have to skip some of the "younger" activities. Many times they didn't do those things at 3 or 4 years of age, but the songs, concepts, and sensory experiences are still important and necessary. And, as God has a habit of doing, He worked it out so perfectly that we sat next to some precious family friends with whom we have traveled this adoption journey (we didn't plan it at all!) and the boys got to enjoy it together! Ephesians 3:20-21! More than we asked or imagined!
Here's last week's Ethiopian dinner. It turned out great! I realize that those of you who haven't tried Ethiopian food may not think this looks very appetizing, but it is really good! This was a chicken stew, with hard boiled eggs in it (served with it, really). It was chicken, marinated in lime juice and red onion, then cooked with onion, spiced butter (spiced with ginger, basil and garlic... not just like the book but good enough!), olive oil, cardamom, nutmeg and turmeric, black pepper and sea salt.I served it with lentils, which are so healthy! Once the lentils had boiled, I added a splash of green Tabasco, a sprinkle of garlic and a dash of bere bere (Ethiopian chili powder). When Minte saw them he said, "Oh!! Minte's fay-borite!" I'm telling you, that response is worth the experimentation, cooking outside of my comfort zone, and leaving the windows open for 12 hours. He ate it for lunch the next two days, and there was none left for "leftover night." I'm posting this to inspire someone. If I can cook Ethiopian food, anyone can!
While I'm at the computer, here's our menu for this week:
Monday: "Minchet Abishe" (Hot Ground Beef Stew- made-a-bit-less-hot ;) and "Yeatakilt Wet" (Cabbage and potatoes) from TROL , with some injera I picked up yesterday
Tuesday: Broiled Tilapia Parmesan, green beans, steamed broccoli/cauliflower
Wednesday: fried chicken, potatoes, peas (judge me if you must, but we love it ;)
Friday: Savory Cheese Soup, salad, wheat rolls
This week's MPM is being hosted by Erin at 5 Dollar Dinners, so head on over there for some economical dinner ideas or to share your menu.
Well, that's a glimpse of our life lately. I hope you're getting a "spring break" of sorts, and experiencing the refreshment and renewal of a new season. Thank you so much for stopping by to catch up!
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Mission accomplished. I loved it. That's what I was going for. You see, two things have the ability to touch a part of his soul we can't get to... Ethiopian praise/worship music and Ethiopian food. When I posted my menu I shared that I feel like I'm finally coming out of my "post-adoption fog" enough to begin incorporating more Ethiopian recipes. Up until now it's been limited to the spicy pasta he taught me to make, which we make together most Sunday evenings. By God's grace, I have grown to love cooking and trying new recipes, but I've been a bit intimidated at the thought of tackling more "ethnic" ones that I either (1) have never tasted so I have no idea whether it turned out right, or (2) have tasted, prepared by a native of that country or a professional chef, so I know mine won't be the same! However, this is important to me. It's worth trying.
I've always felt strongly about wanting my family to have positive memories of our family meals at home. I want them to come home from college or with their own families someday, looking forward to "mom's cooking." I love it when they follow their noses to the kitchen! For our newest son, I want his association with food in his new home to be another reminder of how much we love him... all of him. When he came home, he brought with him his culture and his food preferences. I don't want all of his Ethiopian food memories to be associated with being across the world or in a restaurant. I want some of those memories to lead his mind right back home...to his Texas home. It is often said that the kitchen is the heart of a home. Sometimes (more often than we might think!) "what's for dinner" is about something much bigger than just getting food on the table. It's about reaching our family's hearts.
So here it is, my maiden voyage into the world of Ethiopian cooking: "Alicha Yetakilit Wet Besiga." It certainly didn't turn out as beautiful as the picture in the book, but it tasted great! Steak, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and red onions, seasoned with garlic, ginger and turmeric. (For links to some of the Ethiopian cookbooks I have found, check my sidebar or visit this post. If you know of others, please share in the comments!)
Something else everyone loved last week was the black bean burritos. The filling was so good, my husband used some to make quesadillas on Thursday (YOYO, "you're on your own") night. It would even be a good dip, I think.
So, here's what cooking at our house this week:
Monday: "Ye'doro Alicha Wet" (Mild Chicken Stew with Hard Boiled Egg from TROL), green beans, lentils
Tuesday: Ham & Cheese Bowties, peas, carrots, garlic bread
Wednesday: Southwestern Fish Tacos, black beans, Spanish rice, corn casserole
Thursday: Leftover/ YOYO night
Friday: Tomato Basil Soup (recipe here, scroll down to page 4), salad, crusty wheat bread
For more menu plans, or to share your own, visit Laura. Have a yummy week!
Monday, March 02, 2009
How on earth is it Monday again? Did last week fly by for you as it did for me? In my last post I noted that the wind has been gusting here, blowing March in like a lion. It sure blew the last week of February out quickly!
In last Monday's menu post, I mentioned using the Grocery Gadget app on my phone to plan my grocery list. It has still proven to be very handy! I was able to add to it all week long, and as I made my menu plan I simply clicked on the ingredients I would need. My list was complete for this coming week by last Friday. My sweet husband volunteered to go to the store for me on the spur of the moment Friday evening, and for one minute I had a "oh-no-my-list-is-in-my-phone" moment. But, with the touch of a button I was able to email my list to him, which he printed out in a matter of seconds and took to the store. Love. It.
Last week I took some time to plan my menu for March. Menu planning has become such a sanity-saver for me in recent years. It's a gift I give myself. (Which, in turn, ends up being a gift for my family!) I can bustle and blunder my way through the week ahead, with the myriad of decisions that await me each day, but at least one question has been answered already: What's for dinner? And that's a big question! Planning ahead has already settled a major issue I already know I'll face each day, so my feeble mind is freed up to tackle other things that will come up that I don't know about yet. I've posted before about the merits of menu planning, but I just thought I'd say it again today. It doesn't have to be complicated- soup, cereal, sandwiches or take-out - just write it down and it's officially a plan!
For this month's planning, I used another fun app on my phone, the Dinner Spinner. It was so fun! I've always been a fan of Allrecipes.com, and this made it even more handy for me. At least one recipe each week this month came from that app, so it was truly helpful! I've also incorporated an Ethiopian recipe per week, using recipes out of a book called The Recipe of Love by Aster Ketsela Belayneh. I haven't collected all of my Ethiopian spices yet, but some of what the recipes call for (like turmeric, cardamom, ginger and garlic) are readily available or I already had them on hand. After weeks of making spicy pasta together, Minte and I are ready to branch out! In a way, I feel like I am finally coming out of a six-month-long "post adoption fog" and I'm finding I'm ready to tackle some new recipes. So, I'm excited about this book and I love how the recipes are easy to read, with photos of each recipe (I'm very visual!).
Before I list our dinners, let me share my new favorite lunch: Kashi Black Bean Mango frozen entree along with Archer Farms Organic Blue Corn Flax Seed chips that I found at Super Target. Oh my word, it's like a yummy dip. One of the Kashi's lasts me for two days, so it's not even that expensive. It's quick and easy and really gives me energy for the afternoon.
So here's what's for dinner at our house this week:
Wednesday: "Alicha Yetakilit Wet Besiga" (Mild Vegetable and Beef Combo from TROL)
Thursday: Leftovers/ YOYO (You're On Your Own)
Friday: Happy Birthday Audrey!! Out for pizza at my sweet niece's birthday party. Fun!
For more menu plans and recipes, or to share yours, visit Laura at Orgjunkie.com. Have a yummy week!
Sunday, March 01, 2009
On this first day of March, I was thinking about the saying and also reminded of our visit to the Lion Park during our adoption trip to Ethiopia six months ago. I have not blogged about the events of each day of the trip yet, and it may take me years to do it. I'm still processing so much of it in my mind. Yesterday we did a presentation about our trip to our Bible Fellowship class at church, and my husband included some photos from this particular day, which brought to mind some wonderful memories.
We were so blessed to be able to spend over a week as a family in Addis Ababa, seeing the sights and absorbing the culture with our new son. It was an unforgettable, set-apart, God-ordained time. Simply amazing. We saw so many things that we may never see again, exhibits and places introducing us to the fascinating country of Ethiopia, but I have to say... my focus was on him. Mintesinot Alemu. Our son. My son. I was watching him act silly with his new brother and sister and look adoringly at his new Dad. I was hugging him when I had the opportunity and touching his head. Watching him jump and dance and sing. Listening to him speak his wonderful language. Hearing him call me "Mommy." I was, and continue to be, in awe of this precious child who has been gifted by God in so many ways... so resilient, so funny. He is an example of a child whose heart has been guarded... protected by God's loving hand. He has been through unspeakably difficult things, but has such joy. Oh how I love him, and I'm so glad he's ours.
When I think back to our time in Addis, I feel afresh the excitement of the "newness" of it all, but I love reflecting on it from the comfortable familiarity of today. It was all still so new that day, the day we visited the Lion Park. Being that close to lions was definitely a new experience for our family! You can stand literally a couple of feet from from them. There are lions, bars, chain link, then you. Right there. Lions. Staring you in the face. I remember standing there and thinking, "I can't believe I'm this close to a lion." Several Bible verses about lions ran through my mind that day. At one point, we were watching one, and it roared an ear-splitting roar. I could actually smell its breath! Not many people get close enough to a lion to smell its breath and walk away from the experience! I thought of Daniel and David. I imagined how the early Christians must have felt as they were forced to come face to face with lions. I remembered our reading of David Livingstone's encounter with a lion and thought of it with a fresh perspective. It was spine-tingling enough with two layers of fence between us! Some of the lions would lay close to the bars and you could reach their manes, which, to my surprise, some people would give a tug. It would never occur to me to pull a lion's mane! It was a very interesting day, indeed.
During our visit, we toured the circle of cages, pausing to take some pictures, watching them eat and sharing some of the thoughts I mentioned above. All the while, I was fixed on our new son, wondering what was going through his mind. At this point, having only known his American family for two days or so, and knowing very little English, he wasn't able to tell us what he was thinking. His eyes and facial expressions spoke volumes to me, though. At one point we paused for this picture:
It was a great shot, two lions together (as close as I'll ever put my children to them!) and a perfect picture spot. Our new son. Our new family. New siblings. New parents of three. A new country. A new experience. A new identity. A new season.
I wish I could post another photo that we received that week, but I won't. It's Minte's to share someday. But I will describe it to you. Keep the above picture in your mind's eye, only remove Bethany and Kyle. Imagine Minte 4 or 5 years younger, with a missing front tooth. Envision a handsome, tall Ethiopian man kneeling down next to him with his arm around him. The layer of chain link fence is gone, and only the bars are there. Picture the same lion in the background, in that same position. A smiling boy with his smiling father, spending a sunny afternoon at the Lion Park together. That's the photo we received, of Minte and his Ethiopian father kneeling in what could have been that exact spot a few years ago.
What was so new to us that week was actually familiar territory to him. Of course, experiencing it with us was new, but he'd been there before, maybe even multiple times. Everything on this side of it, now that we've been home, has been new territory for him, but familiar to us. The new and the familiar, woven together on a daily basis. The Master Weaver, expertly weaving a beautiful story out of broken threads.
Being united with your newly adopted child can "come in like a lion." There's a flurry of activity, a whirlwind of new emotions, and a beautiful new definition of "family" brings with it a new season. Some of it is unsettling, much of it is foreign, in its own way it's all wonderful, though at times it will blow your hair back! You'll stand closer to situations and emotions than you ever thought you would. You'll stare things in the face you'd have never thought you'd dare to. You'll simultaneously stand with one foot rooted in the familiar and one foot planted in the new. But you'll love more fiercely than any lion's roar.