Thursday, June 16, 2011

Here we go ...

We are soon off to Ethiopia to bring home our twins!  I can't wait to share their sweet faces with you.  We of course are very excited to go, it's what we have been waiting for!  We also leave with a whole range of emotions.  We know that we get to bring home the boys.  We know that we get to travel hours to the boy's birthplace and visit with birth family.  That brings up many emotions.  We know that we get to walk the streets of Ethiopia again and see the amazing beauty and devastating poverty all at the same time.  Guess we are just trying to prepare for the trip of a lifetime and a full range of emotions.

I am SOOO thankful for all of you who have been lifting us up in prayer this week ... and through this whole journey.  Thank you!  

I have a few prayer requests as we depart.

* please pray for Burka - we just received word that he has pneumonia.  He is little.  He is fragile.  And my mommy's heart says he needs his mama.  I'm so glad that we learned this on our way to Ethiopia and that we will be with him soon.

* please pray for both Burka and Buche's transition as they come home with us.

* please pray for peace for our family 

* please pray for our five kids that we are leaving home.  Each of them respond differently to us leaving.  Please join me in praying for protection for them.

* please pray for my mom as she is healing from unexpected surgery this week.

* please pray for Ryan and I to grow together as we experience another trip to Ethiopia and that our eyes are open to see just what God wants us to see.

Thank you, friends!  

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:14-21

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The end and a new beginning

Our last day at the care center was so quickly upon us!  The week had gone by so fast.   So much had happened in over these days that I know our lives will never be the same.  We had met our new sons, passed court and could say they were ours, saw beauty and poverty like we had never seen before.  We’re still praying about how to process all that we took in over that time.
On this last day, we spent every moment we could with the little boys.  Zachary was finally feeling better and got to enjoy the last day with his brothers.  The little boys started to cry as handed them back to the nannies.  Of course, I’m sure it was much about they were finally comfortable with us and like the loving and attention than anything to do with bonding and really understanding that we are their family, but never the less, it gave a mothers heart a warm fuzzy feeling when the wanted to stay with us.  And… we knew we needed to say goodbye for an indefinite period of time so that warm fuzzy feeling would be overtaken at times by an aching mother’s heart.  Being a mother – no matter how my children have come to me has seemed to come with such a full range of emotions.  I’m learning to hand my kids over to my God more and more everyday and am so thankful for a mighty God who loves them so much and is so much more capable than me.
We walked over for lunch and got to say goodbye to a beautiful little girl from Rwanda and her mommy and daddy.  They had been on many weeks of a journey in Rwanda and now were in Ethiopia for their Embassy appointment.  They were on their way home with their precious little girl.   We walked back to our guest house after lunch.  Zachary got some shopping done on our street – a new soccer jersey!  Amanda and Ryan went to the coffee shop and picked up some coffee to bring home.   We played with the boys more. 
We got to feed the boys their snack today.  They had what seemed like a homemade white yeast bread and hot tea.  I was worried about the hot tea.  Not the boys!  They were used to it and loved it.  We got to have a tea party!
And… the time had come.  Time to say goodbye.   We held it together as we kissed our little guys.  They cried as we handed them back.  It was dark outside.  We loaded in our vehicle as backed out of the guest house.  I can still see all of the kids and nannies holding up little Burka and Buche crying and waving good bye.  I can hear the chatter of the kids saying good bye to us.  Oh how I miss each of those little kids but especially two sweet boys that are ours now.  I miss the smells, the sounds, the people, the animals and so much more of Ethiopia.
But guess what!!!  We got an awesome email yesterday.  We got word that we have cleared the embassy!  Everything is in line.   They boys’ paperwork is done.  Our agency has confirmed our embassy date and told us to purchase airline tickets.  We have the end in sight.  Praise God. 

“To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever.  Amen”  Philippians 4:20

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


This is the day that we spent with our friends Jeff and Lesley taking in the beauty of the country in Ethiopia.  It was amazing!

This is the countryside with a volcano in the backgroud

What a beautiful little girl!  In the background you can see a field of "false banana trees".  They use the roots of these trees to make a bread that is called enset.  We were told that the is a common bread eaten in the south and is made out of the roots of these trees.

We brought some back for the boys.  Buche loved it - Burka was too busy to stop and eat I think.  

 A home along side the road

We got to stop and visit a village.  This is the hut that we went into.  It was beautiful!

As soon as we arrived in the village the people brought us stools to sit down.  

This picture was taken from a city.  We were in the vehicle and children started surrounding the vehicle.

This was a lake that we went to see.  

We were picking up some the the black rock that was found all over this area.  It was so shiny and beautiful.

Camels on the side of the road we were traveling on.

One of my favorite sites ... the Acacia Tree!

Farming and cattle on the road

This is an amazing church we toured.  It was carved out of the rock.  This is the elder in the church pictured here.

Another picture of the church

We ended the day with playing with the little boys again.  We tucked them in and knew that tomorrow was our last day in Ethiopia until we get clearance to return and bring them home!  Bittersweet.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


We spent the day after court playing with the boys again. At this time in our trip I was starting to really dread going home.  I knew we were going to have to leave without the little boys.  I knew how heartbreaking it was going to be for all of us to go back home without them.  And, they were starting to really warm up to us.  They seemed to be having fun with us.   They had been told that we were their mom and dad … that the other kids are their brother and sisters.  And, we soon were going to have to leave.   

Zachary didn’t feel well yet, so he slept the day away.  Between playing with the boys we had an exciting lunch date with some sweet friends we had just met in Ethiopia that were there for court as well and the Benkerts – friends who we have only know through their website and email.    My friend Tammy had first stated following Levi and Jessie Benkert's story and she shared their work and story with us.  The Benkerts had been working in the tribes in the south who believe in superstitions and as a result the elders of the tribe end up killing the children they believe are cursed or mingi.   Levi and Jessie helped rescue many of these kids whose fate was death and took care of and loved on them.  The organization that they started was Drawn from Water.  I’m sure many of you already know of this organization.  Well, today they are opening a new exciting chapter in their life and we were so glad to be able to visit with them and hear about it.  You can follow their new blog and read about what they are doing here.  They are an amazing family following after God’s heart with a deep love for orphans in Ethiopia. 

After learning more about Ethiopia over the past few years God has been growing in us a deep love for that country as well.  Our family wants to be able to help with the work that is being done in Ethiopia.  We want to be able to give back to the country that our sons are from.  I am learning that caring for orphans is messy business for many reasons.   Situations are complicated. Physically taking care of orphans so they are off the street and providing for their physical needs is part of it.   Emotional support and education are a big part of the picture.   Doing all these things so that families will not only live, but thrive together is huge.    Sometimes poverty has taken the life of parents and made it impossible for families to thrive together.   Helping orphans find hope when they have watched their parents die is part of orphan care.  Ultimately sharing the love and hope of Jesus Christ while watching how God meets these needs what is most important.

After being in Africa the saying “it takes a village” has more meaning to me.  We did some sightseeing while we were in Ethiopia.  One thing that our tour guide told me has stuck with me since he said it.   I’m paraphrasing this – but what he said basically was that if he has a dollar in his pocket (even if he didn’t have anything more) and walked by someone that was dying it would only make sense for him to give it to him so that his life would be saved.  While we were in Ethiopia we would have had to have our eyes closed not to see people that are dying.  For those of us who are Christians and are trying to follow the example of Jesus… handing over that dollar to me sounds just like what we are supposed to be doing.  I am not judging anyone, so please don’t get me wrong.  Even after seeing poverty first hand in Ethiopia I struggle so much with my selfishness.  I am selfish with my time, my energy and I am not the person who has handed over that dollar when I should have.  I like to spend time doing what I want to do and  I want the things that I want and have more than I need…period.  Spending time judging each other only takes energy away from helping.  Where you feel led to help, how you feel led to help, when you feel led to help, how much you feel let to help is all between you and God.

Channeling money to the appropriate places is important.  We learned a lesson in Ethiopia the hard way and I’m embarrassed to share it with you.   We were processing what our tour guide had shared about giving the dollar in our pocket away.  We had some dollars in our pocket.  And, in Ethiopia, it seems that you can’t be out in the public without having several people that are begging for money surround you.  Mom’s feeding babies, little children asking for money, orphans whispering in your ear that their mom and dad are dead and they are hungry, disabled and elderly people, homeless people, kids not even asking for money but just crying alone in the street and the list goes on.  You get the picture.  At one stop, we had a young boy catch a fish and he was feeding some birds the fish so that the birds would stick around and we could see them.  He did a great job - we even got a picture of them. 

As we were loading up in our vehicle that boy among many other children were begging for money.  We asked our tour guide if we should give out some money.  He said that if we were going to, then we should give it to the boy who fed the fish because that boy had done something for us.  We gave him a few dollars and drove away.  My girls were watching as we drove away and what they saw brings tears to my eyes. They watched as this boy that we gave money to was getting slapped around and beat up because HE got the money.

I am learning that it does take a village.  God uses His people to accomplish His work and each of our stories look different.  I don’t see that our family will be moving to Ethiopia to be able to physically be the hands and feet there but we do feel the call to help.  Levi and Jessie live in Ethiopia and get to physically be the hands and feet but in doing that they need help.  I can’t image the heartbreaking things that they see and deal with.  They need our prayer support.  And, the reality is, it takes money to be able to help.  They need our financial support.  Like I shared, we’ve learned the hard way about how important channeling money appropriately is.  So, village … pray with me for Levi and Jessie and all the people that they will work with and touch, will you?  And while you are praying about it if you feel the call to financially channel dollars to the ministry that the Benkert's are doing let them know.  They are currently on furlough in the states while they are gearing up their new adventure in Ethiopia.  If you are on facebook –  join their cause to learn more about them.  And hop onto their blog at and check it out (they have their contact information on their blog).  And, tell others about the Benkerts!  I learned about them through a dear friend who shared their story with me - Spread the word and we’ll see what God does.   

Monday, June 6, 2011


Today I went to the zoo with the 3rd and 4th graders.   Grace and I had a great time together.  It is so fun to be able to spend time with the kids at things like that.  It was a super fun day, but it sure was hot!   
Many times though out the day I thought back to what we were doing three weeks ago.  Three weeks ago from today we were in Ethiopia.  Three weeks ago today, we were told that we passed court and that the little boys were ours! 
I got up bright and early that morning but I had Amanda up with me for a change.  She was up bright and early too.  Ryan and I got dressed up and ready to head to court with the three other couples from our agency that had a court date the same day we did.  We decided to leave our five kids at the guest house instead of bring them with us to court.  Zachary was really feeling tough.  He was running a temp with a head and stomach ache.  I gave Zachary some medicine - we prepped the kids to know what they needed to know while were gone and headed over to the other guest house.  We were leaving at 10 am that morning for court.
We made our way through Addis to the courthouse, went up a few flights of stairs and sat in a waiting room while we waited to be called into the courtroom.   We didn’t know if we were going to be called individually or as a group and although had an idea of what questions we might be asked, we didn’t know how that would go or how long it would take.
Two other groups went into the courtroom and came out.  They came out crying joyous tears and embracing each other.  Then our group was called in.  All four of us couples went into the courtroom where the judge asked us a few questions.  The whole process was quick.  The judge ended the questions with the statement “They are yours”.  Yeah.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  Our MOYWA letter was in and we passed.  Ryan and I were from that moment on legally parents of seven – Including twin boys!    It was indeed an awesome day.  We spent the rest of the day playing with our two new sons and brothers.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Sunday morning in Ethiopia!  Sunday morning in Ethiopia and the day before court.  The power had been out in the night a few times.  It was out when I got up.  We had been told to expect that, but this was the first time that it happened.   I woke up early again and spent some time in prayer.  It was my prayer that God would just continue to bond our whole family.  That we would work as a team to show these little boys how much we love them.  That we would work as a team to love on all the kids that were at the care center.  That we would work as a team to show our appreciation and respect to the staff at the care center.  

This was also the day that we got to meet a sweet family that we had connected with before we traveled.  Their children (also a twin set) actually were sleeping in the same bedroom as the boys.  It's so cool how God just places people in your life that are just what you needed!   These friends are such a blessing.  They have have 3 boys at home and they were so understanding and helpful with all of our kids.  It was so fun to watch them come in and meet their little ones for the first time.  It give me goosebumps thinking back to it.

We played the morning away with the boys.  It was fun.  The boys seemed to have fun. As I think back to our time playing with the boys I just so miss them!  I can not wait until they can be with us again and I wonder what they are thinking about us.  We show up for a week and play with them every minute we could and then we leave.  I'm trusting and know that the Father has them in the palm of his hand and that they somehow find peace in this ... and many things that has happened to them their short little lives.  

We went to lunch and got to meet two other couples that we would be going to court with.  They were both adopting kids from the "baby" guest house, so we didn't get to know them well but they sure were a lot of fun.  and their kids were adorable!  

After lunch our bedrooms looked like this.  Being in Africa was tiring!

After we woke up ... and the little boys woke up we went to do more "playing".  Wish we could just play the days away when we are at home too, but things like laundry seem to get in the way :)  Honestly, God has shown me that I need to make a choice to take time to play with my kids.  As our kids have grown up a bit we got out of the routine of "playing".  

Burka came out for Ryan on his own time again but seemed more sad than normal.  Buche also seemed out of sorts.  We pulled out the water bottles and they loved that.  They drank so much water.  They again warmed up and we had fun.  We "drove" around many hours in the cozy coup car, played soccer, and just ran around.  The boys seem to really love playing with our guard.  They has such a special relationship and I'm so thankful for that.  The staff here at our agencies guest house LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the kids.  

Amanda had a headache, so I kept the boys a bit longer and the rest of the family went to dinner while Amanda slept.  She had a hard day.  She was feeling rejected by the boys since their reactions to her were not what she thought they would be.  We got to talk through that together that evening.  God was indeed using this trip for our whole family to bond.  God is indeed strengthening our family and making us a team like we have never been before.  Praise God!

 "I love you, LORD, my strength."  Psalm 18:1

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I started out the day at 4am.   I just couldn't sleep anymore - the time change and all the excitement of being in Ethiopia didn't allow me to sleep in.  But that was okay.  It gave me quiet time - time that I spent doing things like gazing at the coffee and lime tree growing in our little grass area by the guest house - gazing out the window at the door that the boys were sleeping behind and lots of time to be able to read my bible.  I love those moments that are so quiet and seem so perfect.   God is so amazing!

See the Limes ...

and the coffee beans

We went to breakfast at 7am again and then went back to play with the little boys.  Each of them were very apprehensive to come out of their play room and come to us.  No crying this day, they just seems really scared.  I can't even begin to understand what is going through their little minds and hearts.  They were very quiet at first and then like every other day warmed up and enjoyed playing with us.  Buche was full of energy and is so much fun.   Burka is very soft spoken and tender hearted.  He showed off his fine motor skills for us today they way he handled the soccer ball.  

We played with the boys until about 11am, and then we went off to do a few things in the city.   First we went to the bank and exchanged some US dollars for Birr.  Then we went to an art gallery.  We looked at many beautiful pieces of art.  Amazing work!  Then we headed off the the Market.  We picked up a few things at the Market, but it was a different kind of shopping than we were used to.  It was a bit overwhelming.  I've already started a list of things that I would like to pick up on our next trip ...  I needed time to process and think about things and I was just too overwhelmed to do that this day.  The kids did great at the Market - but it was a hard place for each of us to take in the sites of street kids, homeless people, hungry people, mama's and babies, disabled people and sick people. 

Then we went to a coffee shop and bought some Ethiopian coffee beans.  The smell of the beans roasting in the shop was absolutely heavenly! 

After the coffee shop, we went up in the hills of Addis and ate at a restaurant that overlooked Addis.   The photo's below were taken at that restaurant.  It was an amazing view of the city!  The kids had coke, fanta and chicken nuggets and french fries.  That was their highlight ... they thought we were back in America for a bit.  

After lunch, we went back to the care center and spent the rest of the day playing with the boys.  They were done with naps and snacks when we arrived.  Buche came out to greet us, but didn't seem super excited to see us.  Burka cried so hard when he saw us that the nannies kept him with them for awhile.  The staff at the care center are so helpful and we appreciated them so much!  While we were playing with Buche, Burka would come over to the door and peek out to see what we were doing.  He watched and smiled until we acknowledged him - then he quickly ran back in the room.  Ryan went over to the doorway of the room that Burka was in and sat there.  Burka came over to Ryan when he was ready and gave him a hug.  So precious!  Eventually, he let Ryan lift him up and take him out to play with us.  While Burka seemed sad, Buche seemed angry this afternoon.  Again, we can not image what was going through their little minds.  Afternoons also seemed harder than morning.  

Then it was time for the boys to go for dinner ... and us too.  We walked over the to other house, ate and then tucked the 5 kids in at our guest house.  Ryan and I walked over to Buche and Burka's room and when we walked in they both smiled.  Melt my heart!  We kissed them good night, told them we loved them. I know that the Lord is working on all of our hearts, strengthening us day by day.

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10