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. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Butchered Sheep We Could Not Name

We started chopping our 20 pounds of onions the day before the party. My food processor is broken.

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It was the morning of our neighborhood party…complete with sheep butcher. Jon went and bought a huge sheep the morning of the butcher and didn’t let us touch it or name it. We still have one pet sheep. :)

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The men butcher, the women prepare, chop, stir, clean

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Using an ax and a stick to chop apart bones

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Cutting up the stomach. sometimes eaten raw, always looks like broccoli. 

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Guests start arriving

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Stew is full of spice, onions, oil, chopped pieces of lamp and chunks of bone with meat.

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It’s such a joy watching J and A take more initiative with our neighbors, becoming a bit less shy and wanting to help, here they managed the hand washing station.

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Food served

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About thirty people ate half of a sheep.

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After the food and soda is served, out comes the coffee, which I have hastily boiled, without tasting in the house. It was met with much laughter over how thin it was. “Ha! The foreigners like thin coffee, this is so thin!” 

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I was struggling to find the humor. Excuse me. I have been up to my elbow in raw meat, I will smell like onions as they are deep in my pores for several days, I am wearing whichever baby is grumpier for the whole morning on my back and I’m a bit nauseous from the whole thing.  I grabbed the coffee pots and went for another try. Round 2 was approved and round 3 was labeled, “Just like an Ethiopian”. Coffee here is an art form and not one I have perfected. In all sincerity, I was glad our neighbors were comfortable enough to tease me.

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The playing starts. Jon offered a reward to anyone who could cross this slack line. 

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I love how everything is a game.

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Too much cuteness!

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Yeshi and Imabet helped me do dishes and the babies got involved. Literally. Miss T in the dishwater…

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Tiger in the rinse water. Not super-helpful but super-cute. :)

So glad for our gracious neighbors and so much help with the butcher. 



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Grief and Benji The Sheep

Sitting at the breakfast table one morning, we saw a friend enter the gate. Jon went out to talk to them and A reported, “Mom, I think they are going to take one of our sheep”. I dismissed her comment until I looked out the window for myself. A sheep was being led away by a man who was involved in a sheep party that day. I knew there was going to be a sheep butchered. I just didn’t know it was going to be ours, none of us did. Through a miscommunication and misunderstanding of giant proportion, the kids and I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.

Benji was going to be lunch and there was nothing we could do about it.

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Yes, this Benji. One of the two we raised from lambs. Yes, it was for the purpose of blessing our neighbors with sheep but then…then we named them.

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And played with them and dragged them around the yard. Tiger and Miss T love animals though Tiger has learned to keep a distance as he has been knocked down. 

We were invited to eat Benji but none of us (besides Jon) could even think about it. Jon did not appreciate the situation but also reminded us we had raised the sheep for “harvesting”. J wrote a letter to her great-grandma later on the same day. My favorite part said, “Today, I am a vegetarian. Benji is being harvested. At least that is what Daddy calls it.”

All of this long intro to start into the content of grief and transition, not in a tone of self-pity or a pit of despair but in a desire to visit lessons learned. My response to Benji’s sudden butcher was out of proportion big. Grief is strange, a small event flaring up memories of other losses. This little heartache, coupled by a friends’ questions on transition had me digging into old lessons learned and collecting dust on my shelf. 

Two amazing books for kids living outside of their parents’ passport culture are “Third Culture Kids” and “Swirly”. “Third Culture Kids” is a must-read for anyone working with global nomads. (“Swirly” is a kids’ book that sits on our shelf and we pull it out for many visitors. It’s not only helpful for kids but I believe any family or kids supporting families living abroad. Maybe a book to share in Sunday Schools?)

“Third Culture Kids” deals with how to help kids through transition and grief and I think some of the same principles can be applied to kids (adults too!) everywhere because all kids face transitions and loss. Most of the following information is from either trainings or this book. I spent much of my life trying to skip grief, thinking it bogged me down in discouragement. At MTI, this though was shattered. The following excerpt was pointed to by our trainers. As I reread it this morning, it’s good enough I’ll type it here. With all the recent loss we have experienced in our community, I have not allowed my heart to go down the draining road of grief but I am encouraged to do the hard work. 

“Make sadness your ally instead of your enemy. God’s solution for resolving your loss of relationships, dreams, ideals and opportunities is sadness. Rather than something to be avoided, this sadness, or grief, allows you to let go of what you cannot have in order to make room in your heart for what you can have. 

Those who don’t feel safe enough to grieve find themselves holding on to lost hopes and relationships. Then it is difficult for them to seek new attachments, since the ghosts of the past still occupy their emotional life. Solomon understood the value of grieving: 'The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.' (Ecl. 7:4)

So it can be good to be sad, but we must not confuse sadness with depression. Depression is the inability to process loss or rage. It’s a heavy paralysis of the soul that won’t allow it to finish resolving a problem. Sadness is actually the antidote to depression.

Depression is static and unmoving, but sadness moves toward resolving loss. That’s why David declared, ‘Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning’ (Psalm 30:5).”

(Source: “Hiding From Love” by John Townsend)

The R.A.F.T. Model

When saying goodbyes to people, Pollock and Van Reken in “Third Culture Kids” recommend the model of RAFT.

R: Reconcile the relationship. Make peace and ask forgiveness for any brokenness in the relationship

A: Affirm the relationship, let that person know what they mean to you. 

F: Farewell. Make it a good goodbye. Do what is comfortable, hug, kiss, cry if you need to.

T: Think Destination…think future and help your child brainstorm about how life may look in the future. (Example: I know that goodbye was hard to say and you are going to miss your friend. You are probably going to feel sad about this for awhile. I just want you to know I am praying you will make wonderful and deep new friends in our new location.)

We have also found it beneficial to “goodbye” places, especially important if it is somewhere you have lived. At times the mood is silly, sometimes serious, but in stages of many beds and places, we say “goodbye” to anywhere that has become a special memory place for the kids. At a hotel, you will probably find us goodbying the soft beds, the television and the swimming pool. 

Listing your Losses:

A friend also encourages writing down a list of things you have lost in the transition and this isn’t just people. In a column beside this, write down all the things “lost” with this.


Our friends move from our closest neighboring city. 

Associated losses: 

We will miss their relationships

Our kids lose their kids’ friendship

We don’t have anywhere to park our vehicle anymore when we fly out of the city. 

A loss of a doctor who knows us and our kids within a few hours

No more families left besides ours on the North Team


Naming these losses doesn’t make me wallow. It starts the process of naming the sad and being able to move through it. 

If moving into a different culture, the following losses are nearly guaranteed though most of these aren’t reserved just for an overseas move.

-Stable Nest or Home




-Support System

-Quickly and Easily Attained Goals

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“We have all experienced loss. Each stage of life brings a new set of changes. And each change brings with it unavoidable losses. The reality of these losses needs to be acknowledged and incorporated int ourselves and the world. This is essential if we’re to recover from loss; it’s the process we go through in a particular recovery journey called grief. Grief is not itself something we recover from. 

Grief helps us recover from the many losses we experience. Grief makes it possible for us to face the painful reality of our losses, incorporate those losses into our understanding of ourselves, our world and God himself, and somehow move on.

The purpose of grief is not to help us to forget what we have lost, but to help us grow in understanding, compassion and courage in the midst of our losses.

WE all know that grief is emotionally painful work. Grief allows us to heal and grow, but the cost in emotional energy is often very high. Because of this, we often seek ways to postpone the disciplines of grief. We may tell ourselves to ‘Look on the bright side,’ or to ‘Keep a smile on our face.’ But attempts to avoid the emotionally painful process of grief do not lead to growth.”

(Adapted from “Recovery from Loss” by Dale and Juanita Ryan)

A long post for a dead sheep, huh? ;)

God is in grief. He created the process for our human hearts and minds.