Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Weight Of Inequality And The Baby In Front Of Me

Her brother knocked on our door as soon as we returned. He is a friend of ours. Could he bring his sister and her new baby to see us tomorrow? He told us the baby is sick. 

I wasn’t prepared for the depths of pain for this 14-day old boy and the grief of his mother. This beautiful baby is missing part of his skull (though all is covered with skin), has severe spina bifida (The skin never closed over the back and so part of his insides, about the size of an orange, are outside of his little back, nerves and all. His legs are limp and unresponsive and he nurses between pained cries. 

She was discharged from the hospital as she didn’t have money to get to an Addis Ababa hospital where operations are available. In recovery herself without a father of the baby in the picture, the mama is grieving and angry at God for giving her a child like this. She knows, even with best-case scenario outcomes to medical treatment, this survivor, overcoming tremendous obstacles just to be born alive and to fight to nurse, will need a wheelchair for life. A wheelchair in a rutted, mud world doesn’t sound promising to her now. She sees the way people don’t understand physical or mental handicaps and the repulsion for differences. She hears the hopelessness in people’s voices and the suggestions that it would be better for all if the baby just died. 

Tomorrow, she heads on a bus with her brother to Addis Ababa where SIM contacts will meet them at a bus station to navigate the maze, jumble and smog of Addis for the first time. 

The inequality in the healthcare systems and available treatment has churned in my mind. I have access to medical evacuation flights and the best medical care in the world for nothing I have done but because of where I have been born. Believing that all humans are valuable, even the less than perfect ones, even the ones who weren’t born in countries of privilege, we pray and trust God to be revealed through this, in beauty, though all the family can see now is brokenness and what seems to them as a cruel sentence of pain and death. 

Please pray with us for the difficult trip ahead for her, the first time in Addis Ababa, protection, Doctors who can take time to show her love and the precious little life, squirming, trying to get comfortable in her arms. Pray she is comforted. 

I’ve felt deeply convicted and burdened lately with a lesson God is not letting me escape, teaching me on every side. I recently worked through a Bible study on the Minor Prophets, moving into a study on the Old Testament Judges. A banner theme throughout each of these prophets and onto the judges surprised me. God repeatedly called His people back to Himself from their cycle of sin. Their sin is clearly known as the Israelite people serving other Gods. But what I previously did not see as a theme woven through is also the Israelites rejection of God’s command of working for justice, loving the “Quartet of the vulnerable” (From Keller’s, “Generous Justice”) Orphans, widows, immigrant and poor.

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Amos 5 specifically talks of the many ways the Israelites have forsaken justice and oppressed the groups God has commanded his people to care for. 

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“ ‘I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offering and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”

Finishing up with Judges, a friend handed me the previously quoted Tim Keller book, “Generous Justice”. I can’t recommend the book more highly, though I am only 50% complete. 

Our family’s memory work right now is Isaiah 58 (Wow, read it). God is hitting me over the head with this theme. I am praying I learn how this looks for me, for our family, here in our community and in our world.  How do we consistently show Jesus and God to a hurting a broken world? How do we work out justice for the vulnerable? I care about the unborn, how do I show in tangible ways I care about the born? Not just the born who are like me or from my area but seeing each soul as inherently precious as a creation of God?

My heart is breaking about it all and I have sat silent over many issues the Lord burns in my heart because I fear making people upset.  My intention is not to be polarizing or upsetting. At risk of walking into a minefield, the current narrative of children separated from parents in the news highlights one of the four groups God does not let us forget as a vulnerable and oppressed. As Christians, can we make it not about politics but about Bible? 

The Bible overflows (Old Testament and New Testament) with calls to radical, counter-comfort love. God-fueled love poured out on behalf of the vulnerable, on behalf of those who can’t pay me back in any form. These calls to justice, to fight oppression, it applies to immigrant children. It applies to their parents. There needs to be laws and immigration policies in place but in the process, can all still be treated humanely? 

1) Our family has children who have experienced the trauma of separation from birthparents and it still affects them today.

2) We directly see the implications of how being born into poverty or an unstable political climate has lasting effects on entire societies and we don’t take lightly our privilege and blessing but also don’t want to be entitled to it as ours, or our life goal to preserve.

As I prayed yesterday, I wondered at what cost to me, to America, if like the Israelites, we turn our backs on the vulnerable. The orphan, the widow, the immigrant and the poor. I put myself in the place of a mother who knows the way to a different country is fraught with danger, probably rape, possible death and sure mistreatment but as she weighs her decision, her desperation ebbs from every mental space as these terrible risks are easier than what her family is currently facing. I know how easy it is to reduce people into groups and then we can make broad and sweeping decisions. I would never want someone to make these broad and sweeping decisions if my children fit into these groups. 

Isaiah 58:6-10

“Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the find, and speaking wickedness,

if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted. than shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Photo Update

When I think I used to blog several times a week, I laugh at how it was possible! Toddlers are napping, J and A are with Jon at the 5 F’s project and the afternoon clouds have rolled in, ready to dump their contents on our mountains. Since pictures are worth 1,000 words, I’ll maximize my window of time.

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Tiger loves the rain. It is cold though and we usually don’t let him play in it. 

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We haven’t hit our coldest nights and Miss T has started wearing what I would call a snowsuit to bed. She has been sleeping so much better than just a normal footed pj. We call her, “Snow Leopard” and she toddles around, not aware how cute those little ears make her.

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And Tiger, he is our ‘SUPER HERO, FLY!” Self-proclaimed when we tie a cape on him.

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Our time in the south was great. Meetings were super-productive and encouraging. There aren’t many spots for the kids to play at the guest house where we stay in Addis, especially during rainy season. So this play room was well-loved. This was my attempt at having our four kiddos create a perfect picture with their four heads sticking out. #wishfulthinking

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While in Addis, in a sunny and desperate moment, I tried the babies in the stroller out on the street. We couldn’t make it far because of giant holes in the sidewalks, piles of trash and other obstacles but it was so heartwarming watching people have huge and then endeared reactions to our youngest set of twins. Let’ s just say it was a good conversation starter. A large truck even pulled over to smile and the babies and tell them, “Hi”.

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I spent the better part of a week, trying to track down immunizations for the babies, especially Miss T as we came when she was 2.5 months and we are in areas where diseases nearly eradicated in the Western world are common here. We praise God for the protection on our kiddos health. We found some that we needed but are awaiting others to be sent from another country. I knew the process wouldn’t be straightforward but was not expecting it to be this bad. Tess in a taxi is also another lose-lose situation. Please pray with us about this. 

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We heard rumors a Pizza Hut had opened. one of Addis Ababa’s first chain restaurants. The rumors were true and all six of us were giddy. Aubrey was in Mekelle but Pizza is kind of her thing, so she did eat some leftovers when she joined us again.

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On our 9.5 hour trip back to the north, Miss T slept 30 minutes.

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Tiger slept about 20 minutes

and the girls…

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slept about FOUR HOURS. Ha!

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We arrived home to no water and significant power problems. The power company came and fixed touching power lines and then Jon was on his own to fix all the other damage. I was concerned we were going to lose everything in our freezer, but Jon has become a Jack-of-All-Trades and even though he doesn’t consider himself to be an electrician or plumber, after a few days, we had both! We still have some problems but we can life with them until Jon can think of a different solution. Any electricians/plumbers want to visit?

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Medical cases have come…a few easy and straightforward but also a new baby, 2 weeks old, in a desperate situation. It’s hard. This is a whole post for another day but the weight of inequality is sitting heavy.

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A visit to the local orphanage, the story of a new little one, found two weeks ago, abandoned at the bus station. So much need into which we pray “Jesus”. Lately, my prayers have been mostly the word, “Jesus”as I groan into prayer. 

Thank you for reading along, praying and also for all who commented on the last post. More on this topic formulating in my mind. ;) 


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sabahar and The Way We Buy Clothes

 I’ve had this post ruminating in my mind for awhile. 

I write it humbly and wishing I could be sitting down over coffee, sharing ideas and opinions together. 

Living between several worlds, cultural standards are more observable as I come in as a bit of an “outsider” to both cultures.

While touring Sabahar (pictures from over a year ago) and talking with the company’s founder, I was uber-aware of my own ideals clashing with the way I actually live life.

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Sabahar is a beautiful fair trade company. 

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With silk worms raised by farmers in countryside coming into Addis

girls are modeling the silk butterfly. After they come out of their cocoon, they only live a few days

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Miss T looking at a butterfly

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women sitting behind spinning wheels,

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The kids can interact and spin silk or cotton

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We saw boiling vats of natural dyes being added to the fibers

A has her tongue out as she has just eaten part of a crushed up beetle that provides a purple color. I  forget why she ate it, maybe because we were told it was safe to eat? 

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Men weaving at looms, creating patterns sold in the shop. 

everyone fairly compensated.

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Then I walked down to the shop.  Gorgeous. linens, table cloths, pillows, clothes, towels. I pulled out the price tag. Gulp. Compared to prices in the USA, it was actually quite reasonable. The quality was impeccable but I was comparing it to prices I can find at many other local shops in Ethiopia, where things are mass produced (ironically, much coming out of China). 

I am the queen of sale racks. I love to shop garage sales while in the US, but it’s hard to find the time or get the kids out the door early so the clearance racks reel me in, season ahead clothes for our kiddos, paying cheaper prices than I can get 2nd hand clothes.

This isn’t wrong and my love of a deal isn’t wrong…but what if my consumerism is? What if choosing to not think where I use my spending influence and about ethics and stewardship is wrong? I recently heard a discussion talking about poverty no longer being described as “living on $1 or $2 a day” but impoverished people not having access to opportunity and rights (education, fair access to courts, laws that work in favor of all people, etc).  

I was discussing clothing with a friend from Switzerland, who has very nice clothes, just a lot less. As she was telling me the high price of clothes in Switzerland I told her I don’t like to pay over $4 for a t-shirt for my kids. Very kindly, her husband said, “How can a t-shirt you pay $3 for, be ethically produced? Would that mean someone, somewhere is being exploited?” 

Hmm. I don’t write with conclusions or even living out all the things posted below here, I am glad to have my understanding stretched and challenged. Each time I dabble in this arena, I’m intrigued at how so often simplifying choices gives space for creativity in other areas.

I was sent this newsletter (read the whole thing here! It’s worth it and has helpful graphics.) I pulled out a portion below from the Sabahar newsletter. I have not followed every link.

What can you do?


#1 Buy less, buy smart

Buy clothes that you love and want to keep for a long time. Take the time to choose your clothing and buy high quality products that last. EcoAge suggests we aim to wear everything we buy at least 30 times.
Remember that mark-ups are at least 5 times the cost of production (often, much, much more)- so that 5 dollar t-shirt was made for 1 dollar (all materials, labor, shipping and landing costs included).  Ask yourself if the product could be made ethically for that price.
Statistically, we only wear 40% of our wardrobe. So the money you save (from not buying that extra 60%) you could put back into quality ethical garments.


#2 Buy Fair Trade, artisan made or local brands

Buying Fair Trade, artisan made and local products is a great way to ensure employees are treated fairly and environmental protection is prioritized. Obviously, it is challenging to be absolutely clear about which brands are working on a solution to the human and environmental impact of cheap clothing, but some companies are really trying. Here are a few lists of companies striving to produce ethically made fashion:
The True Cost list of buying better 


#3 Buy vintage and used clothing

Buying used clothing is the true definition of recycling. You can find the great styles you love for a fraction of the price.

#4 Ask your favorite brands- who made my clothes

Consumer pressure is critical to bring about change. Ask your favorite brands if they know their supply chains and if they can assure you that there is no exploitation of employees, and environmental protection policies are in place. Demand transparency. Your money talks!

#5 Join the Fashion Revolution

Learn more about the Fashion Revolution movement and explore the websites of EcoAgeThe True CostFashion Revolution, and The Good Trade.

#6 Watch the documentary “The True Cost’

This documentary is an eye opener! It outlines the issues within the fashion industry so clearly that you will want to be part of the change. Watching the film and sharing with others is a great way to start engaging in the change. (NOW ON NETFLIX)

Okay, now back to my thoughts. :)
About 6 years ago, Jon and I (along with a few others) interacted with Jen Hatmaker’s book, “7 An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess”. I was challenged, humbled and changed, though not as long-term as I would have liked. I have not read the revised version. 
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Then I tried a 10-piece capsule wardrobe for 4 months (not counting pjs, workout clothes or swimsuit). Loved it. I know not everyone would. 
And lastly, a link to a company living this out is Noonday. My sister sells for them, empowering women worldwide with the ability to provide for their families. Find out more here.
I would love to know your thoughts on all of this.

Do you shop fair trade? Why or why not? If you do, what are your favorite companies? Do you think this is an important issue in our day? As Christians? What is our responsibility on environmental impact? How intentional should we be with our stewarding the earth? Have you done any experiments with your purchasing? 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Morning Starts With Green Beans

Green beans, not the veggie, rather, the raw coffee bean. 

Imabet is a willing cultural teacher and she agreed to teach Aubrey the art of the Ethiopian coffee process.

This pan with a slightly curved edge is chiefly important to the whole process.

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Behind the black pan is a clay, black pot called a “jebena”, which is specific for making coffee.

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A three-stone fire is used in our area. The dirty beans are put over the fire with a splash of water to heat the water. Then, the coffee maker removes it from the fire (with bare hands).

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From there, the process is soak the green beans in water and grind them together between the palms of your hands. This frees the husks. Rinse and repeat, 3-5 times…

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I love this picture of Miss T, she is just asking, “How can I get involved in this fun process?!?” Of course, she digs in. If it has water, you can’t keep her away.

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After the beans are clean, the tray goes back over the fire and the beans are moved continually. Picture this like a popcorn popper, moving the kernels the whole time. 

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It cannot happen to quickly or you have burned beans and other still green

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And when the smell is incredible and the coffee beans are a brown color, pull them off.

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Time to pour them into the mortar and pestle. Ethiopian coffee is very fine ground and most times, by hand.

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While the coffee is being ground, the jebena goes into the fire so the water can boil.

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Of course, not ones to miss out, Tiger and Miss T joined in.

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The ground coffee is slowly added into the boiling water. Friends claim they can tell by taste whether the coffee was boiled in a  jebena or if it had time to boil in the hot water.

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The jebena is then removed from the fire and slanted at an angle. The grounds settle for a few minutes and then the coffee or buna is poured into tiny cups or sinis. The coffee is strong-compared to an American espresso-and each person is served three rounds of coffee.

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Kids are routinely served coffee here. We limit J and A to a cup and usually none for the toddlers but when someone helps make the coffee, She’s allowed to enjoy a sip.

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Both of our littles love coffee. Tiger was playing outside by the time coffee was served. 

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Here’s a picture from the day before. Tiger had taken over his sister’s hat and the coffee-servers stool.


And then the next day, the process starts again. It’s as far away from a keurig as imaginable. 

 When we tell friends we buy pre-ground coffee and prepare it in a french press, we may as well be aliens. ;)


In other news, we travel to Addis on Sunday. We have a break between meetings in the South and so on Wednesday-Friday, our family goes North (straight North, we live Northwest) to meet J and A’s birth father and birth siblings again! It has been four years and we would appreciate prayers. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Day Of Mother's Day

We are closing in on ten weeks in one spot. That is longer than we have been in any spot in over 2 years. It has felt incredible to have time to settle a bit. We are coming up on meetings in various Ethiopian locations and a three-week series of travels, I know there is adventure to be had there…Trying to focus on the adventure potential and not just ALL THE PACKING AND KIDS IN DIFFERENT BEDS. ;)

Sunday, the kids, Aubrey and Jon all worked hard to make my day special and it was.

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We hiked at a nearby lake. One picture where everyone was looking, no small feat. 

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Most looked like this. :)

Every Mother’s Day is a time of sweetness but also humility as God has given us these four gifts of children. The three who were born from another women’s body make me contemplative, thankful and achy. Adoption is the weightiest gift I have ever received. 

“A child born to another woman calls me mommy.

The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”

-Jody Landers

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The littles in our family have decided their older sisters are the best. I’ve been waiting for this. A told me, “Mom, I think the babies think we are famous. You should see how they look at me.”

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Melt my heart

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We are also so glad to have Aubrey here, lifting my hands up in many ways. 

She leaves the beginning of July and our year-of-the-girl will be complete. How amazing it has been to have Raquel, Eliza, Whitney and Aubrey join us.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Plowing in Pajamas

When plowing is spied outside our window, it doesn’t matter what was on the schedule or that all the kids are still in their pajamas, it’s plowing time!

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Zelelam loves to share and teach about Awi culture, so of course, we were all invited to plow.

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Unnecessary to say, but harder than it looks. J takes a circle.

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A was a bit more apprehensive but still made a round.

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Of course, even Miss T held the whip.

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Then came my favorite boy’s turn. He grabbed the whip and the plow without instruction.

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He is intuitive in all things mechanic and this plow was no exception.