Wednesday, February 22, 2017

She's Holding Strong

Today’s my due date and while the girls play and Tiger naps, I have come to terms with the fact that the next baby is quite happy inside there and nothing I can read on pinterest about natural labor induction methods can really change her mind. I guess I am also a bit lackluster in the more extreme ideas and I am pretty sure sitting on the couch eating anything with oozy frosting wasn’t on the list, which is all I really feel like doing. It’s probably okay, Jon and I talked late into the night last night, laughing about name combinations and we still haven’t settled on her name. 

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We are soaking up the time we have. On Saturday, Jon thought of teaching the girls to ice skate, a perfectly reasonable idea when it is 60 degrees outside.

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Tiger and I just sidelined it as infants and very pregnant women aren’t supposed to ice skate. We walked around the rink, because, you know, this was back when I was more hopeful about bringing on labor. :)

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The girls said it was a dream come true. The near empty rink and gorgeous sunshine didn’t hurt anything. 

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And I am enjoying each moment with this Tiger, who couldn’t be happier about the great outdoors!

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Melt my heart, he loves to sleep like this, his hand grabbing me.

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One of my biggest sad emotions the past few weeks is feeling sad that Tiger will be displaced as baby when he is still a baby, so we do all the snuggling we can.

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And of course, there has had to be some of this as we unload sister’s clothes. :)

Thanks for reading along and praying us through!


Friday, February 10, 2017

Baby, Baby

In just a short time, child #4 enters our world. All looks good at the doctor and I am in the habit of asking really well-thought out questions, such as, “Umm, is it possible for the baby to explode out of my belly button?” My intelligence has wowed the OBGYN staff, I am sure. Jon and I attend our first birthing class on Saturday, cutting it a bit close to the due date but I am very thankful the baby seems to want to stay put for a bit as we move next week. It is from one furnished place to another, so not like a move. WHEW. Most of our stuff is packed up, just more sorting to do, so it’s manageable.

I am so thankful for each of you who read along and pray for us!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017



To the dear, dear readers, still journeying along with us, even when this has been silent, thank you!

Thank you so much for your prayers on behalf of Jon’s trip. He, his dad, Wally, and a friend, Jim, had an incredible time in Ethiopia and it was all a bit surreal to only hear tiny pieces from this side of the world. The girls and I were so hungry for minute-by-minute news, something quite difficult when there was no internet. We were (a little) understanding about this. :) We all missed Jon. 

Pictures Jon took, in order of events I think. 

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Our dog!  She was doing well, in need of a haircut. 

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Jim used his lifetime expertise with sawmills to begin work on the Woodmizer sawmill as it has been out of commission since before we left!  There were more missing pieces than originally anticipated, but God provided and after much work, the machine was working before they left.

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Dad and Jim were able to immediately experience Awi hospitality.

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And then there is the weird feeling of toddlers who have transitioned into little boys while we have been away.

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When they got to our house, all was well…but there was a broken water pump and a pipe that had frozen and burst…which meant no water except what they hauled in buckets. Doing dishes with this predicament is not my favorite activity but from reports, all were good sports!

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Dad G taught a soil class. In Awi culture, important invitations aren’t extended much ahead of time, so the day before, no one had been invited but still 40 farmers were in attendance by the class time!

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A celebration parade of Timket, Jon took this from a hotel in town, trying to get wifi. :)

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a familiar scene, washing the green coffee beans.

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J and A had made some hot pads for friends. Which is funny because Imabet had no idea what to do with this, even after Jon described it. Women here have tough hands and even reach into hot fires to move coals around. :)

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Oh, faces we love. 

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To  market, to market. As we weren’t there, Jon filled the van with people and living things.

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Dad assessed oat trials (started by a summer intern, Andi) on Mark and Debbie’s land.

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Sweet little Yenewerk, looking so old with a picture of J, A and her together.

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When the girls heard Daddy was out eating in huts, J very seriously said to herself, “It’s okay, rejoice with those who rejoice.” As she could hardly stand to know all the food and experiences she was missing.

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On the way back to Addis, time with Yeshi. Can you see this kid?! When we left he couldn’t even crawl and now he is toddling!

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Aah!  He and Tiger are going to be quite the team. 

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So thankful for teammates

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Mark and Debbie saw Jon off at the airport. We are so thankful for them and miss them much!  Debbie took care of food prep for the whole time the men were in Injibara!

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Friends in Addis sent the girls and I three different Ethiopian stews with injera. J declared, “Best meal I have ever eaten!”

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Now, we are so glad to have daddy back and we continue to process. 

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And this little Tiger, oh how he missed his daddy!

Each prayer for our future, wisdom and clarity are much appreciated. Also, we are due with this next baby in three weeks! Aah!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Clean Wounds

Our time in Colorado at the DAR program with MTI was not a waste of time for our family. It was a training/debriefing program and we walk away from it so thankful for the safe place to process, but it also feels like our hearts are bleeding. I am reminded of a talk Jon heard about a year ago after there was some traumatic transition with families unexpectedly leaving the field. Two women spoke of how they wanted “clean wounds” and often our wounds can heal, but if not actively inviting God to do the painful process of debridement, we end up with oozy wounds or ugly scars. 

Once again, we are reminded to ask God, as Good, Good Father to be so very near. 

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A side-by-side in the same airport, two years apart. 

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“Sleeping on the plane”. When the girls think of airplanes, it makes them tired. ;)

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We had the hilariously, most delayed, chaotic flight schedule we have ever experienced domestically. Thankfully, even while waiting for hours on runways, our spirits were up. 

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Waiting for a shuttle at 3:30 in the morning. 

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Poor Tiger baby had a bad cold a bit before we left that only got worse. I took the girls to Whit’s End at Focus on the Family while Jon walked Tiger to an Urgent Care beside our hotel.

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Sick babies are so, so sad. Especially when we are all planning on sleeping in the same room for 8 nights in a row. Thankfully, it is just a nasty virus and I think it is almost gone.

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Putting on a play for me about forgiveness at Whit’s End.

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We found Tamika! (A character in Adventures in Odyssey)

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And had a happy baby again!

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We stayed at a lodge with a beautiful view of Pike’s Peak, although I never took a picture when the clouds were lifted. It will live on in memory. 

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The girls loved “Aunt Sandy”, who helped them through a lot of emotional processing.

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And the hot tubs!

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I am relatively certain Tiger didn’t get put down the entire time he was in kid’s program. 

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So thankful for this time of growing and sharing. 

Jon is off to Ethiopia now and the girls, Tiger and I send him off as our representative. We miss him dearly but are so glad he can go and visit community, work on the sawmill (along with his dad and a friend from the church he grew up in) and eventually attend meetings in Addis Ababa. So, we take the 12 days of his planned absence and I’m giving myself a pep talk. :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Feeling It

I’m not a huge resolutions girl, but I have been contemplating 2016 and for the first time, feeling excited about 2017. Mentally maybe I needed to get through Christmas and now we are into January, the month where our family travels to Colorado for a debrief and some training and when we get back, Jon travels to Ethiopia, I am a bit too pregnant to do the international flight but am so glad he can go. He really wanted to take the girls and they badly wanted to go; however, for various reasons, they will stay in the USA with me. 

A few days ago, I was watching ‘A' bounce away on a trampoline, Without looking at me, she exclaimed, “Mama, I regret ever telling you I wanted to come to America because I didn’t know you weren’t going to let me go back to Ethiopia.” As you all know, it has been much longer in the USA than we planned for and it has been a blessing, though also taken a toll on all of us, but Jon and I know the logistics, have talked it through with leadership and we sincerely hope we can go back to live among the Awi in May. It’s just hard to get that all when you are 7. They have also loved their time in America, her statement just illustrates her pull between two places as "home.” 

Yesterday, it was a mental shift in my mind, and for the first time,  I have a sudden desire to not block out all of the change and whirling around me but allow myself to feel it and pray through it in a deep way.  A book I am reading has convicted me I am “slogging” through life, trying to get a to-do list done and not handling interruptions from my kids with much grace. We’ll see how this all comes together in the next week as I am packing and preparing for our CO trip in the midst of teaching the girls. 

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Glad for this part of my goofy team…

IMG 0567And this teammate melt my heart. He is five-months-old, too little to play in the snow so he stays inside and we keep warm. He has such a personality with loads to tell us but most of his chatter sounds a lot like, “dadadadadada” though he has done a few “mamamamamama” too. (And he said mama first if anyone is keeping track). :) 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fostering Empathy And Compassion

Recently, several situations have reminded of the importance to “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” and just because I don’t have a particular experience or someone’s experience/worldview/opinion differs from mine, I can’t dismiss the person or their path because it isn’t my story. 

How much more beautiful is a church full of diversity, in backgrounds and cultures? It’s a challenge to bridge cultures, even among the Body of Christ; however, a challenge worth every ounce of energy we expend fighting for unity, loving in spite of differences by God’s grace.

On my last international flight, I sat down and a young teen sat beside me. He clenched a white folder in his hands, I could tell it was immigration paperwork. I smiled and said “hi”, his bright white smile in contrast to his gorgeous dark skin was reward enough. We tried to chat, we didn’t have a common language but he had about 20 English words. Putting the pieces of his paperwork together and his few words, I realized he was immigrating from Sudan to Iowa. He watched me open my headphones, plug them in and start a movie. I knew he didn’t know what to do but I wasn’t sure how to help without embarrassing him. After a few minutes of him longingly looking at my screen, I offered to help. We opened his headphones, plugged them in, put them on his ears and then I showed him how to use a touch screen. We were friends. When he was settled in, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

In the row behind and across from me sat three men, all holding the same folders, not able to communicate with words, but holding up their headphones and smiling, hopefully. I laughed and we opened more headphones, plugged them in and started more screens. I settled in again. Another tap, this from the woman behind me, also sheepishly grinning as she held up her headphone packet. We opened the plastic, put them on her ears and got her set up for hours of movie watching bliss. 

Throughout the flight, my buddy and I smiled and tried to communicate. As a meal was served, I noticed he was staring at my food with great interest and my cutlery. Slowly, I pulled out the fork and spoon, making very exaggerated movements on how to use them. He shadowed. He fell asleep and at this point I was so endeared to him I wanted to take him home and teach him the ropes of his new life in America. I prayed for someone who loves Jesus in Iowa to take him under their wings. Through this short relationship, I was convicted that all I had to do to be helpful was to be willing, smiling, not afraid of someone different than me, and aware of another person’s point of view. 

I’ve been the foreigner, the one who sits in the crowded room, trying to catch how to do things from observing others. Working on teams with others of backgrounds different than myself, I am continually humbled at the variety of thoughts and solutions that can come out when we defer to each other in love. It takes work. Americans are seen internationally as being brash and over-speaking. If there is an American (to some extent Westerner in general) in the room, often someone from another culture (Eastern culture) will choose not to speak unless invited in and then waiting for the response without anyone interrupting. I repetitively am guilty of falling into this American pattern. What beauty can come when we stop to listen and esteem other’s ideas. 

Let us not compromise Biblical truth! But let us also be aware so much of the way we read the Bible is influenced by the culture around us, our family culture, our church culture, our nation’s culture. Since I am from the West, I see through this lens when the Bible was actually written by Eastern people’s, about Jesus, who ministered in an Eastern context. This article illustrates this amazingly well, (worth your time!) "Rethinking the Christmas Story”

As parents, we have countless opportunities to shape our children’s thoughts on the world, thoughts on others, thoughts on those different from us. Here are a few recent favorite stories to foster a child’s understanding of the world and relating to other’s in it.

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One of my favorites, “The Sneetches”, one of Dr. Seuss’s unsung heroes, to talk about how people label others for no good reason, it is a fun story that opens up tons of dialogue about prejudice and how groups of people treat others. It’s at Kohls right now as a $5 book!


Anna Hibiscus was a gem! We plan on ordering the whole series. We bought the book through Usborne but they also have it on Amazon. Anna Hibiscus is a sweetheart living in Africa, “amazing Africa” and so sweetly the author weaves an “African” way of life with ease into a way a Western child could understand. In general, just adorable and it made Jon and I laugh.

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This books, “Best of All” is similar to “The Sneetches” while pointing to Eli, the Creator.  The Christian perspective was welcomed but it does move a bit slow, worth it for the lesson! 

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Our family has dialogued about this book many times since we’ve finished reading it. “The Hundred Dresses” had the girls and I in tears at the end and it has been such a  great conversation opener to talk about bullying and what to do if we see other’s being bullied and are on the sidelines.

In a more upfront book, specifically regarding physical differences in people-the lesson is a Sesame Street book, “We’re Different, We’re the Same.” Also, teaching a bit about other cultures, “People” by Peter Spier. 

What books can you add or thoughts do you have?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Reconnection and Snowy Moments

 Hey!  It’s Christmas in, let me see, 6 days. Woah, talk about sneaking up on us. I’m quiet here as I feel much of what I have to say is redundant, my emotions, the transitions, etc.

Brief Update: We are living at Amy’s parents house on a lake and appreciating the beauty each day we are there. Jon hopes to travel to Ethiopia in January, I will stay home with the kiddos. I am not a good pregnant woman. Sure, I definitely rejoice at the miracle God has created inside of me and marvel at each stage but I’ve had just about enough of this little one up in my ribs. We had a family road trip and I tried to keep my sighing to a minimum. :) The girls and I are plugging through school, most days joyfully, besides new math concepts, not a lot of joy there. Tiger sits up, says “MAM” when he is starting to get upset and when he is playful, “dadadadada”, enough for us all to about die of his cuteness. 

The other day as we were traveling and all a bit glum, Tiger started to babble. After about 30 seconds, J said, “I don’t feel so sad anymore” and we all agreed.


This really deserves its own post, but if you have been reading since the beginning of the blog, you may recognize this family (well, maybe if the lighting was better ;)). When Jon and I first traveled to Ethiopia to pick up the girls, to our bewilderment, we realized while we had researched every possible facet of adoptive parenting, we forgot to actually learn a thing about how to keep an infant alive and happy. The girls were very upset by the whole transition as well and as we were staying in a guesthouse with other families, two families heard the cries (of the kids, not ours, well, maybe ours) and came to our aid. The Armstrongs had a set of twins at home and were bringing home another infant, who happened to be an incredibly happy baby, so they stepped in and restored sanity. 

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Here are the three kiddos, lives forever intertwined, meeting again. I’ll have to get a picture of them together as babies on here. So cute. They were living in two different care centers together before our “Forever Family” days.

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So glad we were able to visit and share joy in new members of our family. 

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And we are able to experience so many moments we’re accustomed to missing and it’s amazing. 

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Baby line up at a family event in age order.

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And the SNOW. The girls haven’t let it rest and they are old enough they go to the bathroom before the snow clothes and stay out for so long I am worried they’ll freeze.

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Carefree on the ice.

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Marveling at God’s creativity

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And the ice is perfect and see-through, leading to many discussions about the cold world underneath. I watch from the windows. 

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I am smart (or is it boring?) enough to remember how cold it is outside! It’s strange as it’s Ethiopia’s warm time, so glad to experience both. 

We wish you a Merry Christmas and so much love!