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adoption

Guest Post: How the Good Gift of Adopting Displays the Goodness of Our Heavenly Father

I SHARED WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GOD AS A FATHER FROM OUR ADOPTION ON THE BLOG BELOVED PRODIGALTODAY. I HOPE THESE LESSONS HELP YOU KNOW HOW MUCH YOU ARE LOVED BY THE GOD WHO SEES EVERY EXCEPTIONAL THING ABOUT YOU.

Five years ago, God called our family to international adoption. After years of waiting, we finally traveled to Ethiopia in March for our court date. Our brand new two-year-old has been home for four months now, and God is teaching me things about His character as a good Father through this experience of having a new son.

Here are three things I have learned about God from our adoption:

1. God sees the heart, but I can’t.

The first thing I noticed about our boy when we first met him were all the little details about his hands and feet.

Court Date!

We got a court date!!! March 8th! I am in shock! I am emailing with adoption airfare now to buy tickets! I wish I could show you our Hezekiah's sweet little face!

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I'm so thankful to have these pictures! We hadn't got a new photo of Hezekiah for 3 months, and that mom was at his orphanage on my birthday. I found out in an adoption facebook group & she sent me about 7 pictures of him playing with the new toys they donated to the orphanage. God worked that detail out!

Approval!

We received word yesterday that we had finally have our approval letter from the Ethiopian government. We have been waiting for this letter almost five months. With all of the turbulent news from Ethiopia lately, we have been praying hard that our letter would get signed.

When I opened the email with the news that our letter was signed as a positive approval recommending our family for adoption of Hezekiah, I could hardly continue reading beyond the words "great news" because I was crying tears of joy. I felt so much relief at that moment knowing we were going to be able to bring him home soon!

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This approval letter was the last thing we were waiting for before we could get issued a court date. Our agency went to request a court date today, but the judges had meetings scheduled for the rest of the week. We should have news Monday, and if everything goes smooth, we are expecting to begin traveling Friday (a week from tomorrow.) 

I'm excitedly packing and cleaning and making lists and praising God.

Continue to pray for our family as we wait to hear when our court date will be. Pray for smooth travel plans and health as we travel.

I am very thankful to everyone for all the prayers over this five-year adoption journey! I am also thankful to those that supported us financially as we fundraised for this adoption and our three orphan care mission trips to Ethiopia.

God is faithful. God answers prayers. Obedience is the best!

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Meet Hezekiah - Adoption update

It has been months since I’ve posted anything about our adoption on my social media or blog.  I apologize for keeping quiet.  

I have some news I’d like to share with you.  We have been referred a sweet 2-year-old boy.  He is not yet ours, but we are doing everything we can to get a chance to go to court in Ethiopia and make him our son.

Meet Hezekiah

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Here’s the short version, the answers to the questions I get asked most often.

We don’t know when our court date might be.  The most likely guess is sometime between December and March, but it could always be longer because we are dependent on the Ethiopian government and that is unpredictable.

We have paid all of our agency fees.  We were able to fundraise and save all $26,000 we needed to pay our agency.  There were so many people who gave generously to our adoption.  Our adoption wouldn’t be happening without those donations and the provision of our Faithful God.

We still will need to pay for our travel.  When we travel for court, that expense is completely up to us to provide.  We estimate that it will cost around $8,000.

We will be able to bring Hezekiah home when we travel for court.  Whenever we are finally able to travel, we will be bringing our son home with us when we come home.  We will need to be in Ethiopia for three weeks.

This little boy is not the same 4-year-old boy, “A”, that we were hoping to adopt at Christmastime.  You can read more about that below or in our last blog post.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, shared about our adoption, let me know you were praying for us, donated to our adoption, or participated in one or more of our bazillion fundraisers.

I really am appreciative.

Here’s the long version of the story, for those of you who love more details.  

The weekend after Thanksgiving, we were driving home from visiting my family in Ft. Worth when I pulled up a waiting child list and saw a precious little face.  The waiting child list was on a private webpage and it included children that they had not been able to find a family for from among the families adopting through their agency.  This little boy was just the age we had hoped to adopt, and we knew we could be a home for him.  We emailed the agency (which was a completely different adoption agency that had been using and paid all of our fees to) to see if this little boy still needed a family.

A week later we had found out that this sweet little boy was still waiting for a family, and we were trying to make the difficult decision of switch agencies to try to adopt him or stay with our agency with no end in sight to our waiting.  The biggest factor was money.  We had paid our current agency about one-third of the money required for an international adoption, and we wouldn’t get any of it back if we switched agencies.  Also, we would need to pay over twice the amount we had paid thus far and pay for yet another home study for the new agency.  It was money we didn’t have, and we would have to trust God to provide it.

We took the leap.  I have the conviction that God does not view money the way we people do, and I never want to make a ministry decision based solely on money.  We switched agencies and began fundraising.

From the first week of December until the last week of February we fundraised like mad people.  We did bake sales, present wrapping, garage sales, barbecues, craft sales, and online auctions.  We downright asked for handouts.  We made a video asking everyone to give $2 and invite 10 friends to do the same.  Our Paypal account was flooded by generous people.  After a few months of constant fundraising, we were still about $7,000 short of paying all of our new agency’s fees.  Paying off those fees would allow us to sign the contract that would make sure that we would be the family that would adopt this sweet boy.  We were so sure that this was the boy God had in mind for our family.

One afternoon the last week of February, I was pulling into the craft store parking lot.  I was in the middle of making more crafts for yet another fundraiser, and my phone rang.  It was our new social worker on the phone.  She had some tough news to share about “our boy.”  My first thought was that he was sick or worse.  She shared that without their knowledge, the remote orphanage that our sweet boy was at had contacted a different agency to advocate for finding a family.  Another family had stepped up to adopt him through another agency.  They had already completed their home study and all of their paperwork.  This family had paid all their agency’s fees and signed a contract of adoption with the orphanage.  All of this had been done weeks ago without our agency’s knowledge, and the orphanage had decided to let this other family proceed with the adoption.

This news was devastating.  I mourned this loss hard.  In the middle of grief was tremendous guilt.  Wasn’t I happy that he was still healthy and still was going to be adopted into a family?  Hurt mixed with guilt is a recipe for some awful thoughts about yourself.  I felt so selfish for being so upset.

I just kept thinking, but we had worked so hard.  We had spent every free moment for months fundraising, working on our new home study, and rebuilding our adoption paperwork from scratch, every single paper had to be resigned because our old paperwork was too outdated.

I was also so confused by this news.  We had felt so sure that this boy was the reason our family had been called to adoption.

It took a few weeks before the hurt began to subside in my heart.  We could have easily walked away from the idea of adoption after this huge disappointment, but we didn’t.  Both my husband and I had seen the faces of children in the orphanages we had visited.  We had held the babies and played games with the children.  We knew we had to keep going.  We had to trust God that He still had a plan.

About two months later, we received the phone call I had been dreaming about for four years.  Our new agency called to say there was a little boy they would like to refer to our family, meaning that if we were ready to adopt him, they would help us do it.  She didn’t give us any details about the little boy, other than his age.  She said that the agency would email us his file in a few days that would have all of his pictures and information.

We were so anxious to receive that email.  Two days later, we received the email.  We were blown away at how precious this little boy was, and we were in shock that we were going to get to adopt him.  Our giddiness lasted only a few hours because by that evening we had learned that the Ethiopian government had suspended international adoptions with no reason given or timeline for the suspension to end.

It was the 21st of April, and the spring and beginning of summer is a blur of setting in my backyard trying to focus on anything besides the adoption suspension.

I’d like to tell you that during that season, I completely leaned on the Lord, but many times I leaned on Dunkin Donuts frozen coffees.  Worry was so present in my mind those days that it would completely fog my brain, and the only thing that seemed to make me feel like a human was a big dose of sugar and caffeine in the form of a blended corporate concoction.  It was also clear to me that my vitamin d levels were suffering from the inside life I lived all winter.  A typical day this spring included me doing the minimum school work to finish up our home schooler’s first-grade year while taking every opportunity to refresh my email, search keywords “adoption and Ethiopia” on Twitter, and stocking all the adoption Facebook groups for any clue of what was going to happen with our adoption.

By the time James came home from his work at the church, I was a mess and we would get in the car and get our frozen coffee fix for the day.

Sure I prayed and I would tell you that God was in control, but if someone else said that God’s timing was perfect one more time I would have thrown my frozen coffee in their face.

Would God give us a picture of a beautiful boy who needed a home and then tell us our adoption journey was done?  I honestly didn’t know.

I kept telling God that this whole adoption was His idea, not mine.  Why would He give us this calling, allow our hearts to be fully devoted to the idea of bringing an Ethiopian child into our family, and then threaten to let us fall on our face?

The hard questions weren’t just directed at God.  I accused myself of not really caring about this adorable little boy but really being upset because I would look like a failure if this adoption I had so publicly pursued would end without success.

I spent a lot of time in my Bible that spring reading the words of the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah.  God’s promise of redemption through His Son was centuries away from those generations, but God was determined to give His people hope.

I needed hope more than frozen coffee.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
— Isaiah 30:18 ESV

I hit some real low points in my faith life during that season.  I feel shame for these low points asking ugly questions about God and doubting His sovereignty.  I also feel thankfulness for these low points.

I was completely empty.  I was completely powerless.

I had nothing but Jesus to hang onto because each of those low points let me see God better.  The answers would come with tears and the Spirit.  God was loving and sovereign.  God was present in my troubles.

As the calendar turned to July, we began to see the light at the end of our waiting tunnel.  Good news about the future of Ethiopian adoptions began to trickle in, and we were able to continue on our journey.

Our newly redone paperwork was sent to Ethiopia on August 17th, and our last immigration application was received by Homeland Security on September 7th.

The application process with immigration will take about 3-6 months.  Along with this approval from the US government, we are waiting for an approval letter from the Ethiopian government too.  There is no estimated timeline for that letter.  We are just hopeful that we will receive the letter in the same 3-6 months that the immigration approval will be approved.

There is a decent chance that this could happen, but there is also a chance that we could be waiting longer than that.

We definitely need prayer.  Continue to pray for our Hezekiah and our family.

I will update the blog as we know more, but it could be months before I have anything to post.

Thank you again!

Fundraising Update

Our paint party fundraiser went well (thank you Amber at Creativity Junction! & Maribel at Buffalo's Cafe) & so did our home study visit.  

There is still an opportunity to have your donation to our adoption matched.

We have been approved for a $1,000 matching grant through Lifesong for Orphans! You can use this link to make a tax-deductible contribution to our adoption. The first $1,000 given will be matched, and $450 has still not been given toward that matching.  So the next $450 given through their webpage will be matched.

We need to raise $8,014 more to pay all of our adoption agency fees for "A"'s referral. The rest of our goal covers our estimated travel costs.

I started gathering dossier documents to send to Ethiopia this week.  There are 24 documents we need to gather, everything from new copies of our birth certificate to a letter from our bank.  I worked on gathering as many as I could this week.  I still lack 8 documents.  Pray for us as we complete these tasks.  Every single document needs to be mistake free and notarized.  I need prayer for endurance and a good attitude!

We are having another garage sale tomorrow, and I am making wooden signs to sell at a booth at Whistle Stop Trade Days in Clarendon on March 3rd & 4th.  

We are getting so close to being in the "waiting for a court date" stage!

Fundraising update & Matching Grant Link

Yay! Yay! Yay!  We are almost to $20,000!

I mentioned in the last post that we had received a matching grant.  Here's the low down.

We have been approved for a $1,000 matching grant through Lifesong for Orphans! You can use this link to make a tax-deductible contribution to our adoption. The first $1,000 given will be matched! We need to raise $8,380 more to pay all of our adoption agency fees for "A"'s referral. The rest of our goal covers our estimated travel costs.

We have our home study visit this weekend and our paint party fundraiser tonight.  Please pray for our family as we continue to fundraise and finish paperwork. And pray for "A" in Ethiopia!

Fundraising Update

Our garage sale was a success.  We were able to raise $870 for our adoption making our current fundraising total $10,708!  (Only $17,167 to go!)

We had tons of great garage sale items left, so we have decided to have it again on Saturday, weather permitting.

I'm also planning a paint party with Creativity Junction.  We will earn 1/2 of all money paid for the paint party for our adoption.  I think that's extremely generous.  The party will be on Thursday, February 9th at 6pm, Buffalo Cafe in Canyon, TX.

As we continue to fundraise, I will be excited to see the 1/2 way mark!  Only a few thousand dollars till that happens!

Thank you to everyone who donated all the wonderful stuff to our garage sale.

 

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Fundraising Update

We are past $9,000!  Specifically $9,086!  Only $18,789 to go.

Right now we are working on having a big garage sale at our church's warehouse (so we can be out of the cold.)  We've asked friends to donate stuff they are getting rid of to our sale, and we've started a pretty good pile of stuff.

I'm also listing things for sale on eBay and making crafts to sell.

We still have a few donations from our video trickling in.  I'm so grateful every single time I see one.  I'm honestly over-the-moon grateful when we get a donation from some stranger who doesn't even know our family.  It's humbling and exciting; it makes me so optimistic about the world.  Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our adoption!  We are just past the 1/3 mark!

Fundraising Update

Our bake sale plus gift wrapping fundraiser was a great success.  Praise, Jesus.  We raised $595!  That with a few donations-to-the-cause brings us to a total of $ $8,533.  Only $19,342 to go!

We are finally under the $20,000 mark, which mentally feels so much better.  The other morning I woke up with the sweats because I had this fear that I had done the math wrong and we had just gotten under $30,000 and we still had $29,000 to go.  Dear morning brain, please quit it.  Get behind me, Satan.  We are in the teens!

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for our friends, family, and even strangers who have given to our adoption.

As I write this, it is Christmas Eve, and I've written about the great joy we are celebrating today on the blog.  Give it a read.

Exciting News!

We have news about our adoption.  We have decided to pursue adopting a waiting child using a different adoption agency.  

Watch our video to hear our announcement.

INVITE 25

Copy this into your email, text, or social media messenger & send to 25 friends:

I know this family, and I gave $2.  Can you please give just $2 to make sure this child is placed into a loving home?  Then ask 25 friends to watch this video -->  http://bit.ly/2gukH6z

2 Years Waiting

Sunday was the 2nd anniversary of our DTE.  DTE stands for Dossier To Ethiopia, and it is the date that all our adoption paperwork was officially sent to Ethiopia.  We have been in line, waiting to be matched with a child for two years now.  That a long time.  It was hard not to feel discouraged Sunday.  Our family celebrated our DTE date last year with a fun day of sledding, fro-yo, and a movie.  This year we just did dinner out and fro-yo.  It’s hard to be happy about waiting, but I was glad we gave it our best shot.

Something that occurred to me when I was thinking about how long two years is out of our life.  I’ve been obsessing over the founding father Alexander Hamilton since the moment I first listed to the broadway musical soundtrack of Hamilton.  I bought myself his biography by Ron Chernow, and now I know way too much about his life.  In my defense, it is endlessly fascinating.

In history class we learn these events: Boston tea party, Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War, Constitutional Convention, Federalist Papers, ratifying and adopting the Constitution.  They all run together in the timeline in my mind.  I picture one leading to the next over a short period of time, but I’m wrong.  As I was reading about Hamilton, I was struck by the lengths of times each of these feats in our country’s history took.  The revolutionary war forged on for 8 years.  Can you believe it lasted almost a decade?  If I knew that in 8th grade, I’ve forgotten.  It took 1 1/2 years to convince congress to adopt the constitution that was written 11 years after independence was declared.

Good things take time.  We live in such an immediate world.  Instant streaming, periscoping, live-tweeting, fast food, and Amazon prime are all part of our daily speak.  My two years of waiting, even if I end up waiting two more years, will all be worth it.  It will be good.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
— James 1:17 ESV

Here's a sample of Hamilton.  This track is aptly titled "Wait for It."  It's actually my favorite song from the musical.  It is sung from the point of view of Aaron Burr, the vice president who kills Alexander Hamilton in a duel.  Fun fact:  when he says "My grandfather was a fire and brimstone preacher," he means Jonathan Edwards.  Yes, the preacher critical in The Great Awakening was Aaron Burr's grandfather.  Whoa!  Clearly I'm down the rabbit hole.  Send help.

Gripping Hope During our Home Study Update

Home studies expire.  So do FBI fingerprints.

 

We are knee deep in updating our home study.  I just went to the doctor today & got a TB test (since I've been out of the country since our last home study.)

 

Friday James, Lucy, and I will be getting our state fingerprinting done.  Next week I'll take the 3 kids for their doctor visits.  And the next week our social worker will come for her visit.

 

Even the cat is in on the home study update action.  Bubbles is headed to the vet for his shots this week.

 

I remember how extremely nervous I was when we did our home study the first time.  I was so crazy nervous that I cleaned behind my washing machine.

 

I'm not near as nervous this time.  Or as excited.

 

Our wait time keeps increasing.  It's hard to get excited knowing I probably will have to update our home study again before we get a referral (or matched) with a little boy.

 

Pray for us during this time of waiting.  Here's what the Lord encouraged me with today.  I'm going to grip hope.

 

Tonight is the In His Hands Orphans Outreach meeting.  I am leading the meeting in a study from a Created to Connect lesson plan by Karyn Purvis.

 

The lesson had a verse from Lamentations.  Normally I don't read and study the book of Lamentations because, well the name says it all.  Expressing grief isn't a favorite topic for most people.  But this verse is encouraging.

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,

the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.

I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—

the feeling of hitting the bottom.

But there’s one other thing I remember,

and remembering, I KEEP A GRIP ON HOPE:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,

his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.

They’re created new every morning.

How great your faithfulness!

I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).

He’s all I’ve got left.

It’s a good thing to quietly hope,

quietly hope for help from God.
— — Lamentations 3:19-24, 26 (The Message, emphasis added)


How good is that.  As I wait for my child, I'm going to keep a grip on hope.  Thank you Lord for the encouragement from Your Word!

Why I can't imagine not going back

Last week my friend and mission trip leader for the August 2015 ACT trip Shelly Wilson posted a blog titled "Why I'm Going Back."  She explained all the reasons why she felt that God wanted her to go on another mission trip to Ethiopia this summer, even though she, her husband, and her daughter had gone to Ethiopia last summer.

It was great blog post, and you should totally read it.

This weekend I filled out my application to be on her mission team in August.  One of the questions was "Describe why you want to visit the orphans?" and I answered, "I can't imagine not going back."

There are two reason I feel going back isn't even an option for me.  One is that my future son is only a drop in the bucket of the orphan crisis.

I've heard this phrase a lot when I tell people that we are on the list to adopt from Ethiopia.

"You are going to change that kid's whole future."

It's true, and I get goosebumps thinking about what God (not I) am doing in our son's life.

But the fact is that their are millions of orphans in the world that will never get the chance to be adopted.  If you go with the most conservative number, 17.8 million children have lost both their mother and father.  The amount of children that have been adopted in the last decade through international adoption is around 178,000 adoptions.  If you make that into a ratio, it means that less than 1% of those orphans are adopted into a family.

More than 99% of the world's orphans will never be adopted.

Knowing that fact, I can't help but do all the big and little things God sets before me to care for orphans that will never be adopted.

Honestly, I saw needs in the orphanages that were not being met.  I will continue to try to help meet those needs until I hear an audible voice of God telling me to stop.

It is clear to me from God's word that continuing to try to meet the needs of those parentless children is what we as Christians are suppose to be doing.



The second reason I can't imagine not going back is the book of Acts.  If you haven't got out your Bible and read through Acts lately, do it.  Do it, and ask yourself it the early church reminds you of your body of believers.  Most likely you will see some things you and your church are getting right, but you will also be convicted of some things your church is missing the mark on.

Specifically Acts 4:32-37 where it describes the early church sharing their earthy possessions until "there was not a needy person among them" has really opened some serious debate in my head and made my heart so sensitive to the needs of other believers.

On our trip we met the most beautiful, sweet, Christian family.  This family was only a mom and her son, Samuel.  They were both HIV+ and living in a 100 square feet home of corrugated metal and cardboard.  Knowing that this family and I were part of the same Bride of Christ broke my heart in a way that I cannot explain.  This woman was dealing with a serious illness, depression, raising a teenage son with a serious illness, and she was doing it all with less earthly possessions than my 4 year old.

I knew God was taking care of her, and I knew the hope of Jesus was more real to her than most Christians.  But now that I had meet this family, these believers in His church, I knew I was responsible to now live my life like I knew about them, no longer in ignorance of their existence.

Faces are covered out of respect for privacy.
If there is anything I can do to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ in Ethiopia, I feel I have the responsibility to do it.  Visiting them is encouragement.  Praying for them is encouragement.  Giving is encouragement.  Our mission trip in August will allow me to do all three of these things.

Now that I've told you why I can't imagine not going back to Ethiopia again this August, think about if you can image going.  We have 6 people who have signed up for this trip, and I know God has a few more He is calling to go along with us.  Let me know if that might be you.



I hope I can be the kind of friend you call when the rice is running thin.

One Year Waiting - Celebrating our DTE Day

Today was the anniversary of our paperwork being sent to Ethiopia.  It is one year since our DTE day or Dossier to Ethiopia day.

Instead of dwelling on the long wait we've had and the long wait that is probably ahead of us, we wanted to celebrate.  We are thankful for everything God has done in our family.  Today we had a family fun day full of sledding, fro-yo, movies, and Thai food.

Here's some pictures and videos of our fun day.

Please pray with us for our little boy.  We miss him even though we don't even know him yet.  Pray he is safe, fed, and being cared for as we wait to have him join our family.

Thank you,
James, Jennifer, Lucy, Andrew, and Gabe




















Shop Sweet 2: Making your Christmas dollars count in a more meaningful way



Last year I posted a list of great ways that you could spend your Christmas money either supporting adoption or buying fair trade items.  Well I've got a new list for Christmas 2014!

Your dollar can be powerful, and we spend a lot of dollars this time of year.

Again this Christmas I have made a decision try to make my dollars count in a more meaningful way. I'm going to do that by trying to buy many of my Christmas gifts from families raising money for international adoptions, companies who employ under-resourced workers, and companies who cycle profits into vulnerable communities, and retailers making a difference.

Before you head off to the mall this Christmas, consider purchasing some of these gifts that will give back to communities that need our support.

Bonus sweetness:  When you buy a present from Amazon (most of us will), don't forget to use AmazonSmile.  All you have to do is click a link to AmazonSmile before you shop, and a percentage of your purchase is donated to the charity you choose to support.  Personally I have been supporting our adoption agency AWAA.  This is link to support AWAA through AmazonSmile.  I can also recommend that you support Little Miracles International, all of the proceeds will go to care for children in Uganda.  This is the link.  Use the link every time you shop at Amazon this holiday season.

last year 33 this year 32

Support Adopting Families:


yellow bike change purse wristlet
$13












front pocket wallet
$26









adoption t-shirt
$28












come to me turquoise necklace
$17













Ethiopian market art 11x14 print
$30










fox rice filled heat/cold pack children
$50











Fair Trade Products:


twig place card holder
$6













sunspray mirror
$49













hope necklace handmade in Ethiopia from recycled bullet castings
$59












dahlia 31bits necklace
$72












friendship bracelet set from bitsies
$16












large wood + leather bangles
$22













boys button down cars shirt
$19.95











$24











Side note:  I watched this Indian movie called The Lunch Box on the plane ride back from Ethiopia, and I instantly wanted one of these.  I love the way the metal clacking sounds when they stack and unstack them.  It's just clever and also really adorable.  And I would totally recommend the movie.



$45












$78












$20












$35/mo.
(Thanks Cindy Douglas for telling me about this one.)









$20













$22











$16











$60











$26











$9












$130

Support a Non-Profit: 

tri-strand paper bead necklace
$25













$13








$27













$30













$15













act justly womens tee
$27













sevenly gift card
$10 to 100













topanifarm
$29










i am n voice of the martyrs long sleeve t
$25







Don't forget about AmazonSmile!  Use it every time you shop at Amazon.


  • This is link to support America World Adoption Agency.  
  • This is the link to support Little Miracles International.  





List of stores and ministries from gifts above:

Christmas Ornament Fundraiser

I've started making a few Christmas ornaments for a fundraiser for a children's home in Uganda.  The fundraiser is coming up in November.  I'll post the details soon.

Since the ornaments turned out so cute.  I thought I would add them to our Etsy page, fundraising for our our adoption.  I know not everyone has my  passion  obsession with Africa.  So I've made ornaments with coffee cups too.  If you don't have my   passion  obsession with coffee,  something is wrong with you  it's ok.

Click here to purchase an ornament.

Stay tuned for more information about the Sweet Dreams Fundraiser for Karama Children's Home in Uganda, and mark November 20th on your calendar.   You won't want to miss it.








My Week in Ethiopia

**A note about pictures: I don't feel comfortable posting photos of the children we visited on any website or social media, so I don't have any of those here. They don't have parents to protect their privacy, so I feel it's my responsibility to do that. Some orphanages did not allow photos at all and the orphanages that did allow photos expected us to be responsible with when and where we used those photos. I did make a DVD slide show to share with my church family and supporters, if you would like a copy, please email me.

To start off with, I want to tell you a few things about Ethiopia, and why I even went on this trip. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that was never colonized by any other country. Ethiopians are very proud of that fact, and the result is that they have held onto their culture very well. Ethiopia did have an occupation of Italy from 1936 to 1941, and they fought a war to keep Italy from taking control of their government. The result of that occupation that is actually quite good, is that Ethiopia has some great Italian food. We had some amazing pizza the last night we were there. Ethiopia is twice the size of Texas, and they have 91 million people. The city we visited was the capital, Addis Ababa, and they have about 4 million people. Of those 91 million, 4.3 million of them are orphans (meaning they have lost a mother or a father or both.) That means 5% of the total population is an orphan. 2.4 million of those children have lost their mother (and 500,000 of those losses were caused by AIDS.) Of the 4.3 million, 600,000 of them are double orphans (meaning they have lost both their mother and their father.) There are many other reasons a child could end up in an orphanage. Children are abandoned everyday because their family cannot feed and care for that child due to poverty, sickness, or other reasons. Many children are abandoned when their surviving parent remarries, and the new parent does not want to care for the children from the previous marriage. Only 0.002% of these orphans will ever be adopted.  International adoption is not making a dent in caring for the 147 million orphans worldwide. Our call to care for the orphan as Christians (James 1:27, 1 John 3:16-18, Deut. 14:28-29, Deut. 24:17-22) will need to be met in other ways besides international adoption.  This trip was an opportunity for me to do just that.

Day One (Saturday):

We arrived in Addis. As soon as you walk off the plane and smell the spices in the air, and you know that that you are in Africa. Our group was made up of 4 Texans and 8 North Carolinians. The Texans included the Wilson family, Barry, Shelly and 12 year old Libby, and me. The North Carolinians included Cindy (our brave leader), Kesha, Courtney, Janelle, Suzanne, Angie, and Keri. If you noticed, Barry was the only guy name in that list. Barry braved it out with 11 females. There's an extra crown for him in Heaven. The 12 of us were able to bring 31 suitcases full of supplies for the orphanages we would visit. Getting all of those bags off the conveyer belt and onto carts (we had about 7 or 8 of them) and outside to the vans was nothing short of a circus.



The drive from the airport to the guesthouse seemed surreal. I listed some of the things I saw on the drive in my journal: donkeys, a mom sitting on the side of the busy street with her two young children and nursing her baby, small children darting to cross the busy street in traffic on their own, cattle - some in the middle of the road, small feed lots full of goats, a "tent" made out of tarps with a woman and toddler inside, lots and lots of small businesses, boys selling shoe shines on almost every corner, fruit stands, trucks full of fruit, homemade wheelbarrows full of fruit, barber shops, people selling sugarcane.

 




Day Two (Sunday): We had the blessing of going to church at the International Evangelical Church. The church was had many races of people there. The worship team had Americans, Africans, and Asians leading. The pastor, Dr. Mesghina Medhin, was from Eritrea, which is a small country northeast of Ethiopia. His sermon about Barnabas the encourager and his personal testimony were both such a blessing to me.




After church, we visited Kaldi's Coffee for lunch. I had the most amazing Macchiato. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, so it was no surprise that their coffee was topnotch. According to popular legend, Kaldi was the name of the Ethiopian goatherd who was responsible for discovering the coffee plant. The Kaldi's also served really great french fries, even though I don't eat fries much at home, it was comforting to eat something so American.




Israel, AWAA's Investigation and Referral Coordinator, was our guide for all of our outings in Ethiopia. I really enjoyed getting to know her better at Kaldi's that afternoon. She has an amazing testimony and incredible life. She was a sponsored child through Compassion International all the way through college, and she is such an example of how that program can help people become a success and more importantly come to know Jesus. Throughout the week, I watched her time and time again defend her faith and live out the calling that God has put on her life. If you don't sponsor a child through Compassion, go to their website and start one now.



Day Three (Monday):

Finally it was our first day of visiting orphanages. We visited 2 orphanages on Monday. Orphanage #1 was a private orphanage, and probably the best orphanage we visited. Their children were well cared for. The first thing they did was take us into visit the babies. It was heaven. We got to sit and hold babies for about an hour. I could have stayed all day. It was quite crowded with over thirty babies, a few nannies, and the 12 of us in the small playroom. They were so precious, and I will never forget how they really hugged me tight when I held them. The older children were also very sweet, and we had a great time playing games and music with them. They had a great basketball court and playground to play on. Angie is a music teacher, so we brought 100 instruments (sticks, bells, and shakers) as an activity to share with all the children we visited throughout the week.



The second orphanage we visited, orphanage #2, was also a private orphanage, but it was smaller than the first orphanage. The children had prepared a few songs to sing for us, and we really enjoyed their sweet little voices. We played our music instruments with them, and they had so much fun. One girl shared her tribal dance with us, and it was quite impressive.


Day Four (Tuesday):

Visiting the transition home was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  Our agency has a home where they bring children to get them ready to be matched with a family.  The children live at the transition home while they go through court and until they are finally taken home by their new parents.  They have a child psychologist and pediatrician on staff to get the children ready mentally and physically to be adopted.  They also verify that the children's stories match up with what is on their paperwork and help the child deal with the trauma that they have faced in their short lives.




One of the things Shelly and Cindy did before we left was collect care packages and photo releases from adoptive families that have already been matched with children at the transition home.  We were able to deliver gallon sized gifts to the children from their parents.  That was a blast.  It was so fun watching them open their package.  It usually had photos, small toys, and gum.  The other children stood around giggling as the package was opened.  The children were so quick to share their new goodies.  The gum spread like wildfire through the transition home.

It was also a privilege to take photos of those children for their parents at home.  I think we had 10 kids to take photos and videos of while we were there.  That was a little hectic, but I knew how much those moms and dads would treasure getting extra photos of their children.  I was thrilled to minister to those adoptive families in that way.


The transition home treated us to a coffee ceremony.  I'm serious that Ethiopia is serious about their coffee.  They have a tradition of welcoming guests with a coffee ceremony.  The coffee is prepared in a jebena (traditional coffee pot) on a small stove of coals.  There is this mix of spices that is placed on the coals like incense.  The coffee is served with a nice set of coffee cups, fresh bread, and popcorn.  It's like nothing I have ever experienced.




It was also an Orthodox holiday called Buhu that day.  There is a tradition on that day that boys go door to door with, walking sticks rhythmically pounding on the ground, singing the song Hoya Hoye, which praises the home owner and asks for bread.  The homeowner then gives the boys bread or in modern times - money.  This scenario had played out at our guest house gate that morning, and it was acted out by the children at the transition home during our coffee ceremony.  It made me wish America had more fun, sing-song, non-commerical traditions like this one.



After lunch we headed off to Orphanage #4 to meet "Rachel."  Here is a link to my post about Rachel.

For dinner that night, we had a night out to a touristy Ethiopian restaurant.  The food was delicious and the entertainment was really fun, but it was clearly the type of restaurant that out-of-towners were brought to.  There was a table of French people next to us and a table of Chinese businessmen behind us.  We have a restaurant like this where I live called The Big Texan.  I've only ate there once in the 18 years I've lived in Amarillo, and it was because I was drug there by a group of out-of-towners.  So we ate at The Big Texan of Ethiopia.  I'll admit it.  I had fun.  Here's a little video I made of the restaurant.





Day Five (Wednesday):

After having a great day on Tuesday, Wednesday was tough day for me.

We visited orphanage #5, a government orphanage for younger children.  They did not allow any photos at the government orphanage.  We took the largest portion of our supplies to orphanage #5.  We also used some of our money to buy them formula and diapers at the Safeway Supermarket.  The biggest highlight was getting to hand out candies and a few crocheted frisbees to the 6 and 7 year old children playing outside.  They were so excited about the candy.




Orphanage #6 was a private orphanage, and they had only a few children.  We visited it just to advocate for one of the children of off the waiting child list that was living at that orphanage.  It was a short visit, but we did get to see a few babies that had just been brought to private orphanage #6 from the government orphanage #5.  They were in a room by themselves, and they looked happy to be in a quiet spot.

After we visited the two orphanages for the day, we had a special treat of visiting the Hope for Korah ministry.  Korah is a neighborhood of homes that built up so that they could be close to the garbage dumps of the city.  The people live close to the garbage dump so that they can pilfer for things to reuse and sell.  As we drove through the village, many of the people along the streets were working, cooking, and selling things.  It was late afternoon and many people were heading home for the day.  We were greeted with many friendly shouts of the Amharic word for foreigner.  "For-en-j!" "For-en-j!"

We visited Hope for Korah's Income Generation Compound.  It is a clean place for women to come and work making crafts to sell.  The supplies for the crafts are provided by donors and the women's children are cared for in a free daycare.  It was the end of their work day.  They all greeted us very so warmly with hugs and kisses.  Many of them were sewing toy balls.  There was a small shop where we could purchase items made by the women.  I gladly bought a few items, and I was happy to buy one of the toy balls that we had seen the women sewing.  As we shopped, one of the highlights of my trip happened.  After days of visiting children with no mothers, no families, we had the joy of seeing a group of well cared for children come down from daycare to join their mothers to go home.  Babies and toddlers were strapped on their momma's backs, kids were greeted with hugs and kisses, and hands were held as they headed out the gate with their mothers.  It was beautiful.



Next, we visited another ministry of Hope for Korah, the Elders' Home for Lepers.  I never though I would get a chance in my lifetime to meet a leper.  I was honestly excited.  The home housed 8 older men, and a few of them were home to meet us.  They seemed happy to have visitors.  They sang songs for us, and we prayed for them in English and Amharic.  They had a pet goat and little garden out front to keep them busy.



What I found in Korah was joy, joy in work, joy in the families, joy from the lepers, joy from The Lord.  It was such a blessing to me to see that side of Ethiopia.


Day Six (Thursday):

As we were planning our mission trip, we knew that another mission team would visit Ethiopia about a month before our trip with AWAA ACT.  We knew that they would be visiting many of the orphanages we would visit on our trip.  We were anxious to hear their report of what they encountered on their trip so we could meet the needs that they saw and were not able to meet.  One of the needs they presented to us was the need for mattresses at orphanage #7, the older girl government orphanage (they house girls between the ages of 8 and 16.)  They reported that there were almost 400 girls at the orphanage and that only around half of them had mattresses.  With not much time before our trip, we decided to take on the challenge of purchasing 350 mattresses for orphanage #7.  After pricing the mattresses, we realized we had only two thirds of the funds we would need to purchase those mattresses.  AWAA agreed to help get the word out that we needed more money to provide this basic need for the girls at orphanage #7.  They posted blog posts, sent out emails, and made promotional videos to share on social media.  Our team and the mission team who had just returned from Ethiopia worked together to get the word out.

$45 = 1 mattress

Two weeks before leaving for our trip, we got the word that we had raised more than enough money to cover the purchase of the 350 mattresses for orphanage #7.  We were all so grateful for God's provision.  Our team had been gathering blankets all along to take to Ethiopia, and we were only 50 short of having 350 blankets to take with us.  A plan was made to purchase the 50 blankets we needed, and we turned our attention to sheets.  We only had about 30 sheets packed so far.  I knew that God would not provide 350 mattresses and 350 blankets only to not provide 350 sheets for these sweet Ethiopian orphans that he obviously loved.  We were two weeks away, most of our supply suitcases were already full, all of our teams money was tied up for mattresses or travel expenses, and figuring out how to get 350 sheets to Ethiopia was honestly not an easy puzzle to solve.  My church, Citychurch, stepped up to the plate and provided the funds needed to purchase the sheets.  Sheets are heavy, and each of our suitcases could not exceed 50 lbs.  Our team decided to only take a bottom, fitted sheet for each girl.  I bought 100 fitted sheets at 4 Walmarts here in Amarillo, and Suzanne in North Carolina visited every Walmart she could drive to until she had found enough sheets to meet our 350 sheet goal.  It was a little like an Amazing Race task, but we gathered the sheets and got them packed.



You can imagine that we were excited that Thursday in Ethiopia to see the 350 mattresses delivered to the girls at orphanage #7.  That morning, we loaded the suitcases full of sheets and blankets in and on top of our vans, and drove to the orphanage.  I know this is an obvious statement, but 350 girls is a lot of girls.  There were 12 of us and 350 of them.  We were mobbed like the Beatles in 1964.  It wasn't just crazy, it was out of control.  They were so excited about us being there.  After 30 minutes or so, things calmed down enough for us to take a tour of the orphanage.  After the tour, we saw two trucks pull in loaded down with mattresses.  It was a sight I will never forget.  In case you don't know, our God is awesome.






The last orphanage we visited, orphanage #8, was a small, private orphanage.  They had a few children, and we were excited to see a few more babies had been transferred there from the government baby orphanage #5.  Their director was very informative, and we were glad to sit down and talk with him about his orphanage and Ethiopia.  He was pleased to tell us that his ministry was having some success with an inner-country adoption program.  Adopting a child into your family is not a popular thing to do in Ethiopia.  Many people are hoping to change that along with opinions about adoption in the country of Ethiopia.  It would be a very wonderful thing for more Ethiopian families to adopt the thousands and thousands of children that are being raised in orphanages in Ethiopia.  I was happy to hear that he had 22 families who had just completed training and were being matched with orphans in south Ethiopia.



Our adoption agency, AWAA, also promotes inner-country adoption.  They have a large billboard in Addis that promotes adoption among Ethiopian families.  AWAA also provides assistance for adoptions within Ethiopia for no cost to Ethiopian families.


After our visit with the director of orphanage #8, we went into the courtyard to play with the older children and hand out balloons.  When it was time to leave, I looked back at those children playing with balloons, and I couldn't believe all of our orphanage visits were over.  The week had flew by and we were all done with visiting orphans.  It had been tiring, difficult at times, but an amazing experience I would never forget.

Day Seven (Friday):

On Friday, we visited Entoto Mountain, a small museum sharing some of Ethiopia's history, the very first Christian Orthodox Church, and the historical emperor's home.  The scenery was beautiful, and I longed to leave the city and see the beautiful countryside of Ethiopia.  Maybe someday I will be able to make that journey.







We also visited some shops that were not much more than tarps in row, the "post office" shopping center of Addis, and a delicious pizza restaurant with a brick oven.  Do you want to know what the biggest surprise of my trip was?  I found salsa.  My family knows that I eat salsa more than any other food.  It's my go-to snack, and I go to it almost every day.  If you cut me, I bleed salsa.  I never thought I would find it in Ethiopia, but I did.  And it was good.








Day Eight (Saturday):

Saturday morning began our last day in Ethiopia. We all had a mixture of feelings of happiness to be heading home to our families and sadness over leaving the city of Addis that we have grown so fond of. Our day started out with a quick trip to the music store. Our driver Solomon has been playing us an Amharic praise CD all week. A few of us have fallen in love with some of the songs while riding in his van. The store turned out to be a small Christian bookstore. As we purchased the CD's, felt very good to support a Christian business in Ethiopia.




The store also had Christian books in Amharic. I was immediately drawn to some illustrated children's Bible stories. Since they were only 23 Birr a piece, the equivalent to around $1, I decided to buy four to give away to children during the day.

Our next stop was the AWAA Transition Home to drop of a few more donations. We were excited to find that 4 children had just been transferred into the home from a government orphanage that we had visited earlier in the week. Three of the children were tiny babies. We took turns peeking in on the sweet sleeping babies. The fourth child was a 6 year old boy. He was so happy to tell us that he remembered us giving him candy at the other orphanage. It was so nice to see children moving another step closer to adoption. It was also nice to hear that we had made at least a small impact in his life by visiting his orphanage.

Barry and Shelly's son Grady only asked for one souvenir from Ethiopia. He asked for a piece of bamboo. While we were near the stores, Shelly decided to quickly look to see if she could find some. The rest of us waited in the car and spent our time saying no to the many, many street vendors that approached our van window asking, "You want?" Shannon spotted a boy walking down the street carrying what she thought was bamboo. She stuck her head out of the window and yelled, "Hey, we want." It turns out it was sugarcane. One of the veteran street vendor boys heard us say we were actually interested in purchasing bamboo. He disappeared and returned only a few moments latter with an 8 ft., freshly pulled stock of bamboo. After we finished laughing at his tenacity, Barry and the driver negotiated a price and asked him if he would be able to cut the stock smaller. He disappeared again, and this time he returned with a machete knife. We all had a good laugh again. Barry finally found shopping he enjoyed, shopping involving machetes, resourceful street vendors, and car side service. We were all glad that Grady would get the small piece of Ethiopia he wanted.




Next we were off to complete our main mission for the day, visiting sponsored children in their homes. AWAA has a sponsorship program for 107 children in Addis Abba. The children are high risk families referred to them by the government. The sponsored families receive 360 Birr per month ($18 US dollars.) The only stipulation is that families put 100 Birr of this money into a savings account for the child's future needs. We had seen so much of the city in the past week, but I was really excited to see where people lived, to see what a home in Addis would look like.

Our mission team split into two groups, and each group would visit 3 families each. On our way to our first home, I asked permission to give away the children's Bible story books that I had purchased that morning. I was given permission to give them to families that were Protestant.

The first and third homes we visited were both young girls who were orphaned but being raised by extended family. Both of the homes were Orthodox Christians, so I was not able to give a book to the children.

The second home visit was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The home was about 100 square feet constructed of corrugated metal and cardboard. The sponsored child was a 12 year old boy who lived there with his mother. The mother warmly invited us in to her home and quickly offered us coffee. We insisted that we had just ate and would not be able to stay long. She repeatedly offered us coffee and tea. She was just so hospitable to us. We were told that both the boy and his mother were HIV positive, and the mother was battling depression. She was very proud of her savings account for her son that included the money from his sponsorship. She passed around the bank register for all of us to see. We began to chat with the family. We asked if they were getting all the medicine they needed; they were. We asked what subject he enjoyed in school; he likes English. We asked what he wanted to be when he grew up; he wants to be an artist, more specifically an author. We finally asked if they went to church, and they proudly told us that they were Protestant. It dawned on me that I was going to to be able to give the children's books to this young man who dreams of being an author. Then the mother told is something I will never forget, she told us that she was happy to have us visit. She said, "You are the only one's who have come here to see us." I felt so completely filled with joy and sadness at the same time. Joy that we were able to visit this family and bless this young man with children's books. Sorrow for the struggle that this family faced with their medical problems, stigma they face having HIV and depression, trying to keep feed and warm in their metal and cardboard home. But I also felt joy that they knew Jesus, that they will one day be free from these Earthly struggles in Our Father's House. As we left I knew I had been blessed by our visit exponentially more that the family could have ever been. We said our goodbyes with hugs and Ethiopian style three kisses on alternating cheeks. As we drove away, I realized that God had orchestrated our seemingly random events that day to bless that boy who loves stories and books with books that he could call his own. That family may not have had visitors, but God is watching, God knows their struggles, their needs, and their desires. He loves and cares for them. What a hope we have in Jesus!

"The Lord is near all who call out to Him, all who call out to Him with integrity.
 He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him." Psalm 145:18-19a

If you would like to sponsor a child through America World, you can help a vulnerable family - like Samuel's family - remain with their parent or extended family and keep that child out of an orphanage.  Here is the link to AWAA's sponsorship program.

If you've read this whole, crazy long blog post, then you probably need to go to Ethiopia on a mission trip.  Here is the link to AWAA's ACT missions.  It is a trip you won't regret!
Four Texans glad to be back in Amarillo.

Blog links and new sign design

I can hear the summer is swushing by.  My mission trip to Ethiopia is only one month and 4 days away.  Our mission trip team has begun a blog.  You can find it here.  Right now it has introductions to the team members.  It will be a great place to share about our trip while we are in Ethiopia and when we return.

Pray for our trip.  Pray for provision, pray for our spirit to be right and at peace with the work he will equip us to do, and pray for the children we will encounter.

Our adoption agency has a blog that they post updates concerning the Ethiopia program.  It is a wonderful way to see some of the children and places we will be visiting in Ethiopia. We will be visiting our adoption agency's transition home that is shown in some of the blog posts.  Check out AWAA's blog here.  This blog post is particularly sweet.

We have a new listing in our Etsy store for adoption fundraising.  My husband and I were contacted by a previous customer.  She is a wedding planner, and she had a friend that wanted to propose to his girlfriend on 4th of July.  Since he and his girlfriend were from to different states, he thought it would be romantic to have wooden signs with their home states on them at the proposal.  So these signs are the finished product.  We are now taking orders for custom geographical signs on reclaimed barn wood. Tell your friends.  Here is our Etsy listing.