Friday, December 21, 2018

For He Who Is Mighty Has Done Great Things

As we’ve had more Christmases away from our US home, we/ve pushed harder into Advent. It didn’t take many holidays here to realize how without intentionality, traditions and celebrations are skimmed through. 

While we dearly miss many elements of December in the USA, there is a sweetness of skipping the “hustle and bustle” with more time to focus on the miracle of God becoming flesh when he sent Jesus down among us as a baby. 

And if you follow on Instagram, you know we have several different families visit us. There are enough posts mentally backlogged to start another blog. Thanks for still reading. Your prayers and support are vital. 

While the Gerber family was here, because they were coming with four kids, we loosely pre-planned a “Camp Christmas”

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I remember last year when our neighbors were over and watching a Christmas puppet show. What amazement I felt as as we took a break between the two shows, the shepherd boys left, running out  to bring their friends. Shepherds, telling shepherds the good news. Kids who know what it feels like to sleep among animals. Children who can understand a tight financial situation. 

I see Mary and Joseph's strength and faith in God with new eyes. I deeply feel this little, middle-eastern baby coming to bring peace on earth while leading a beautiful and difficult life.

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We have a video of Friday. Our kids acted out the story in sections all week and on Friday, God brought just the right teacher to tell the children the whole story again and lead a discussion. The kids had never been a part of a drama before so acting it out seemed a stretch. We did not anticipate how much the kids had caught on and added their own sweet perceptions into the story.

IMG 0770Hopefully I can get the video uploaded before western Christmas, but to borrow Mary’s words, “My soul magnifies the Lord”. 

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Celebrate Hard

When Jon’s parents finalized their trip dates, we were not only glad to they were coming but also packed as much celebrating as we could into our time. By nature, when I have margin, I am a person who loves to celebrate the little things. You already saw a few pictures of them at Field Days, but we also celebrated by sharing our Awi neighborhood and then, an early Thanksgiving, Trick-or-Treating, J and A’s birthday, as well as Jon’s birthday. We were well-partied. 

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Airport pick-ups are so much more fun than drop-offs!

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Our neighbors love to see our parents out and about. We become a little more human, like we came from somewhere, besides an airplane. 

IMG 1521Grandpa and Grandma brought their love and great attitudes to make our day-to-day extra amazing. 

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Jon’s birthday!

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J and A’s birthday!

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Tiger and Miss T also benefitted as Grandma couldn’t resist bringing gifts for the littles as well. 

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While we were staying at a guest house in Addis Ababa, the kids trick-or-treated in the guest house and loved all the attention and funny adults. 

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Look at those teachers in the back. 

IMG 0153Enjoying Mark and Debbie’ visit and even blessed with a meal at their home. 

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And time to see them off.

Mom and Dad, thanks so much for your visit!  We cherish the time and memories. 


Monday, November 19, 2018

He Has Done Great Things

When they arrived in our yard over a year ago, I didn’t know the situation but judging by the grim look in the older man’s eyes and the tears threatening to spill over in his daughter’s, I braced myself. The young women lifted her scarf and unveiled her 16 day-old baby. I saw beauty and miraculous life. She showed me her little daughter’s feet and hands and the birth deformities. 

The next visit came two days later, the mother (18 years), baby and grandmother came. The grandmother expressed the common feeling that a child with birth defects was only  a heavy burden to the family. She choked with grief and bitterness, “And what if the child grows? Will she go to school? How long will her Mom be able to carry her?”

A humorous aside, a bit of background at my emotional state during this conversation: it was happening when Miss T was around 5months old and Tiger was just over a year. My early mama instincts were heightened because of the hormones and small bodies dependent on me. It was in the same stage where I wanted to mother everything, from the overloaded donkey on the side of the road, to the small, scraggly, mucus-eyed stray kitten. During this season, Jon knocked down what he thought was a bat nest outside of our attic window. When we realized it was actually a swallow’s nest, I lost sleep over the poor homeless creatures. With this Mama/Baby combo, I was devastated by the lack of hope present.

 The mother, Frehiwot, and I locked eyes and her desperation, ready-to-do-anything love for her child cried out. I had the chance to speak hope and God’s goodness over the child with amniotic band syndrome. 

Now the silver lining!  (It brings me so much joy to write this as often all I have to share are the heart-wrenching stories). In Addis Ababa, I had a friend who worked at the amazing CURE Hospital and after a brief e-mail consult, the baby had an appointment. CURE does pediatric surgeries at no cost to needy families. Lines are long for appointments but the infant’s condition needed immediate attention. After the first surgery, we visited the family and there was a grateful and even slightly optimistic quality in the house. A series of surgeries and follow-up appointments later, Frehiwot and I would speak on the phone, but we only saw each other briefly and never with little baby girl.

While in Addis, Ato Fekadu, who is an SIM employee and an amazing man of God, called me and asked if I could come to his office. Ato Fekadu manages our medical patients in AA, we send him money for their transport, hotel, medicines, food, etc and he shares the love of Jesus with the family while taking care of practical needs. 

I walked in and saw Frehiwot, with her beautiful toddler on her lap. Kalkidan was smiling and snuggling and proudly wiggled her limbs full of scars and recovery. Frehiwot and I wept and laughed and hugged and marveled together. For a period of minutes, as the full office looked on, all I could choke out through tears was, “God be praised.”

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Medical ministry has brought so much pain and suffering to our door. Sometimes, the death and illness feels so heavy, we stagger and want to give up. Now there is this giggly little one, delightedly snuggling the beanie baby bear, (which speaks to my recently deceased Grandma’s legacy, she sent our kids so many beanie babies, we have been able to spread her love to kids in need of a sweet diversion during tough medical stuff). 

Through God’s faithfulness and because of your generous financial partnership, we have been able to help families who have no other means, with a focus on children or parents who would leave behind orphans. Now, we are so thankful to say that Awi Medical Outreach has it’s own project number and if you desire to help with this, you can donate directly through SIM USA, project number #092023 or follow this link.

God has done great things!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Field Days 2018

A highlight for our year is Field Days where we are a part of a homeschool program at an international school in Addis Ababa. While our girls aren’t naturally track and field girls, the food, relationships and 30 minutes of family fun races make all two days worth it. 

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Watching the toddler races, Miss T and Tiger had already ran their race with much joy and a bit of confusion. 

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An added bonus with Grandpa and Grandma in our cheer squad!

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Getting the Littles off the field. After their race, they kept sneaking through the flags onto the track.

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The girls’ 4x100 relay team

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Getting ready to run the Daddy-Daughter race, getting harder each year with growing girls and now three daughters!

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Holding on for dear life.

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Waiting for the 3-legged race

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Our last time hanging with the Dunns in Ethiopia. ; / 

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Go Taylor!

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Tiger and I tried to do the Mother-Son race, which is where the moms steer their boys, wheelbarrow style down the field. He was definitely the youngest competitor and when everyone else crossed the finish line and we still hadn’t crossed the 10 m mark, we decided to run together instead. 

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So fun to have Grandpa and Grandma cheering on our team. 

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Two action-packed and exhausting days.

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We loved to cheer on our girls and were so proud of them for persevering, stretching themselves and smiling as they ran. 



Friday, November 9, 2018

Spaghetti, Applesauce and Another Goodbye

You see, she was all kinds of amazing. I’ve been given the gift of these faith filled, praise-worthy grandparents and I forever grateful but the ache is deep when we have to say goodbye on this earth.

Grandma or “Mimi” as J and A nicknamed her passed from this earth and into God’s glory last week. We laugh and talk as we imagine her pain-free body dancing and worshiping before the throne but we miss her. This is the 3rd funeral of a grandparent I have “sat out” in Ethiopia and it hasn’t gotten easier. We were incredibly humbled to sit in Injibara and live stream her memorial service and even be remembered in our absence. 

One of my first memories with Grandma, I was sitting in some kind of high chair or booster seat in her old kitchen and she poured homemade applesauce on her spaghetti and in that act, I felt so loved. Isn’t it funny what sticks out? I still like applesauce with my spaghetti. 

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A told me she was going to name her first daughter “Dottie” as a form of Dorothy.

I type, delete, type, delete because I can’t give adequate words to someone pouring out their lives and investing richly and deeply in her family, spoiling her grandkids at every opportunity. 

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Some of the most recent highlights with Grandma and J and A were when we would visit her retirement home and eat in the cafe, their order the same every time, hotdogs and mac n’ cheese. These girls are so glad she is pain-free but “wouldn’t trade Mimi for all the hotdogs and mac n’ cheese in the world!”. 

The day after her funeral, the girls received early birthday cards from her in the mail. Something she wanted to make sure she sent when she realized how close death was. 

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So many sweet memories.

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Mimi has loved us and each of our children so well. She was one of the first to wholeheartedly cheer adoption in our family and was an unwavering, loyal fan. 

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There are 13 grandkids and I am so thankful for each of them and my Grandma’s legacy of love.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

"She Is Rich, She Can Send All Her Kids To School"

There are days and seasons in our homeschool when I think it would be less frustrating for everybody if I let the girls run free and Instead taught well-behaved monkeys (not the poo-flinging kind). It’s not all their fault, somedays I can’t get past my expectations and my stuffed to-do list for the day and I’m impatient about any deviance from my plan and then everything falls apart. 

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But then there are the days when I am so stinking’ proud of their creative little selves. 3rd grade how I love you, we are currently studying oceans, poetry and Incans, Aztecs and Mayans.

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This week, I told Jon, “Yeah, I thought studying poetry would really be there thing but it is not landing.” 

And then they wrote these. Even a hint of humor and irony at the end I’m praising God that in spite of their teacher’s (me) weaknesses, they are learning something. (I corrected spelling)

Oh Squid You Block Your Prey

Oh Squid you block your prey

by squirting all day

You leap and sleep down in the deep.

You keep your babies safe in bed.

If I’d seen you, I’d have said, “Hi squid! You’re so red!”

By A

The Dolphins

Jump, swimming,

Loving, Sailing,

In the boat I feel like bailing.

If I fall

I know you will save me.

If I stay, I will play with you.

Just me and who? 

You. I guess that’s we, 

you see.”

By J

I’m going somewhere, besides having you read my kids’ poetry, promise. 

While outside measuring the size of a full-size humpback whale, a few curious adults joined us, asking what we were doing. I tried to describe a whale…but first I have to describe a large body of water, different from a river, different from the small lake, it is an OCEAN. Amazement followed and i went inside to grab any book of animals and ocean animals we have. In our community, unless an animal can be seen, it is difficult to conceptualize it as there aren’t many photos or books or context. The girls wandered off, doing their own thing while learning continued. “How big is a baby whale when it is born? What is the biggest land animal? How does that compare to the whale? Do snakes eat people? What do fish taste like? Where did you get this book?, etc”. 

The requests have been continuous in this season for more education offered to the children, more for the adults. Doors are also opening for us to be able to learn from the wisdom of our neighbors. We always want to move forth in humility, not as the experts but as learners as well. Do you know the brain has endless capacity to learn? The more we learn the more space we have to learn.

Sometimes when our homeschool has energy level zero, I tell the girls about all the kids around them who want to learn. Neighbor kids who walk long distances for school and don’t get a single book. I don’t have to pull out “Back-when-I-was-your-age” stories of hardship as all around, we see bright people with a hunger for knowledge without resources to do anything about it. J and A love it when I draw on these stories. (Sarcastic, yes).

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We invited two families over to watch the documentary by Disney, “Oceans”. The above picture is taken at start time, none of the people we had invited had arrived but they mentioned it to others and we started by showing a globe, talking about land, where we are in the world, how much is ocean, etc. As the movie started, more people asked to enter until it was shoulder-to-shoulder and the girls and I left so there would be room for more people. It was so fun to hear the excited and astounded gasps. It was hard to grasp what was happening as most of those in attendance have never been submerged underwater as there is not a large enough body of water around. And so to watch animals underwater, it seemed like they were flying.

 I can’t find words to describe my feelings sufficiently. Teaching times like these energize me at the same time, leave me…humbled, achy, heavy. We are surrounded by many smart, capable and motivated individuals. I again feel the inequality of having endless opportunities. Plus all the books, pictures, resources, access to internet and crayons and how it can change a child’s or adult’s learning experience and life.  I know this holds true worldwide, even in the context of the western world, children in poorer communities have less access to resources and it is harder to excel. Is that just the way it is? 

As we teach, we learn from our neighbors. In the women’s self-worth and leadership classes, I hear the women discussing the mark of a rich life as being able to send all their children to school. For example, a picture of a women milking a cow is equated to a happy life as “She is rich because she has a cow and then she can send all of her kids to school.”

 How does this strike you? Do you feel tension? What ideas do you have?

Monday, October 15, 2018

"You Got Me Out of Bed For This?"

Meskel morning air hung thick with smoke as we lit our flaming torches. Because of the Littles, our bonfire was at 6 am, hours after the earliest were lit. The girls bounded out of bed on Meskel morning, having slept lightly in anticipation for holding a flaming torch and seeing which direction the smoke traveled. Meskel is an Ethiopian holiday, “Finding of the True Cross”. I’ll not type more as wikipedia does a decent job of explaining the tradition.

By 8:00 am, I smelled like bonfire smoke and had coffee spots, fresh out of the jebena, and spicy stew on my clothes, not a bad start to a day. I can never complain as most of my days start with good coffee.

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Miss T’s face in this picture speaks, “You got me out of bed for this?”

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After our very impressive bonfire, we ate breakfast before an 8:00 am date for coffee i the yard.

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When we are in Injibara, Jon and the girls do a traditional hike on the morning of Meskel. I am sure someday Miss T and Tiger will join.

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A view from the top

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And this yellow wild flower is named the “Meskel Flower”, blooming brilliantly against purple wildflowers and green grass during this season.

Within the last few weeks, God has opened doors for me to lead three small groups of women in a leadership and self-worth course. I’ve loved learning alongside the women and getting a deeper insight into the culture of the women around us. I’ve so many thoughts on education right not that I will give the subject its own post.