Sunday, December 30, 2007

"That was incredible..."

Today Laura and I attended a morning worship service at Rehoboth Ethiopian Evangelical Church. There is no way I will do it justice in words on this page but I will do my best to convey what it was we felt and experienced.

First off, I need to say the people that make up that church are really, really cool. They are kind. They are loving. They are humble. They love God. They love Ethiopia. And they loved us today. I am not sure if I have ever felt as welcome at a church anywhere. Ever.

Let me rewind for a second. The morning started like any normal Sunday - up early, feed the dogs, send them outside and get ready to head out to church. But instead of our 20 minute drive to North Metro - today we were heading about 55 minutes away to a church we had been invited to 2 days earlier by our new friends Challa and Masresha. I'd be lying if I said we weren't a little nervous. I mean neither of us are very good at just putting ourselves out there in new situations. But hey - as we said in the last post - God was running this whole thing. So who were we to not follow?

We arrived shortly before worship and they were still wrapping up their Sunday school service and prayer. Oh - and I might mention - the only language we heard coming from a pretty packed room was Amharic! Not a bit of english. Cool - but it didn't help the nerves. While we were waiting outside and debating whether or not to enter the service in progress a young guy with a huge smile came bounding out. It was Challa, husband of Masresha (who had invited us). With an outstretched hand and wonderfully spoken english he immediately removed all of our anxiety. After a quick tour of the church and a rowdy introduction to his beautiful daughter we headed in to the worship service.

Honestly - the graphic up there says it all. Wow. That's what we felt. The service opened up with beautiful singing led by a choir of about 8 and everyone joined in. Unfortunately I don't read or speak Amharic so all I had to offer was a measly clapping of my hands and a Cheshire Cat grin on my face. This was awesome! After the worship and prayer the pastor recognized us as visitors (it wasn't too hard) and asked us for introductions. There were a few other new faces and after all introductions they settled in for the message.

The coolest thing about the whole visit today was that God was so up in that place. And He went out of His way to speak to us yet again (2 very clear times). I know I have shared quite a few examples of how God has been speaking to us in rather loud volumes lately but I can't help it. It's too cool. And the more we try to polish our relationship with God the more we can see Him working almost in real time in our lives (like I felt like I did today).

So here is example 1. As the pastor was praying and they were preparing to give the message I began praying that somehow, some way God would let me hear this message. Let me understand it. How in the world would that be possible? Everything so far had been in a different language. I didn't know how it could be done but I did know that my God is big and He can do anything - so I went ahead and prayed that. When we sat down, the girl beside me got up and left. Challa then slid into her seat and whispered in my ear "I am going to interpret for you." Well, hello there God. That was a quick answer to that prayer. So Challa proceeded to let me know what book we were reading from in the Bible and he took meticulous notes and constantly whispered in my ear (which I then whispered in Laura's ear). Not only did I feel like I got the entire message, Challa was so good at what he was doing that I even got all the jokes and was able to laugh along with everyone else in the congregation.

Pretty cool, eh? I thought so. And example 2 comes right after that. Anyone who knows me knows that I have been living by Matthew 6:25 for a while now. It says:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes?"
It's a great verse and it has given me the peace I have needed time and time again throughout the past 2 years. So imagine my surprise when Challa said we were reading from Matthew chapter 6 verses 24-34. What? Okay God - I am hearing you! There are no coincidences, right? I know I don't think there are.

So here was God answering prayers and providing reassurance to me all within a matter of seconds. I love that He works like that. After the service was over we headed to a fellowship room where they served freshly baked bread and tea and coffee. We met so many people, shared our son's photo with everyone and were just made to feel so loved and so welcome. The pastor spoke to us at length and said if we need anything at all to contact him. We also met Fanuel - a very nice gentleman who was here visiting but who actually lives in Ethiopia and works for Ethiopian Air Lines. We exchanged contact information with him and will be getting in touch later on as we prepare to head over to bring home our little man.

I don't know if I did this justice at all with what I have written. I am still a little overwhelmed myself from how cool the experience was. I can tell you this though; God's Word is God's Word no matter what language it's coming at ya in. Sometimes we overstudy it and get hung up on things like textual variations in manuscript copies - and when that happens I think we all ought to ruffle our own feathers and head out to hear a service in a language you have never even heard spoken before.

After shaking all of the hands of so many people who were thanking us (what??? no, Thank YOU!) we headed out in to the rain to leave. When we got back in the car Laura looked at me and said:
"That was incredible..."
Yep Laura. It was.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Loud and Clear

Tonight was one of those nights where God turned the amp all the way up to 10. Matter of fact, if you've seen Spinal Tap, you probably know what I mean when I say I think He turned it up to eleven. Anyway ya look at it - He was loud. And He was clear. And we were in awe (yet again).

The night started out pretty simple. We headed out to do what we had been putting off for a while - Register. Wow, what a tedious process. Wow, how many things does a little human need? I got to control the gun and in my head I was Jack Bauer in Season 2 busting terrorists - not Tymm in a baby store zapping piddle pads. Perception is reality people. And my altered perception got me through the next 3 hours.

Afterwards, we hit the first restaurant we could find because we were pretty hungry from our hard work busting terrorists. But the restauraunt was freezing - no joke - it was cold. Cold enough for us to leave to find somewhere else. We're not good at major decisions like "Where should we eat?" so we stumbled into the next closest place and took a seat. When I returned to the table from the restroom Laura said "Check out our waitress - I bet she is from Ethiopia. I am going to ask her where she is from." In case you don't know, that is not like Laura (or me for that matter). We have gazed at and admired adopted children from a distance but never really enaged anybody in conversation regarding their ethnicity before.

So when she came back to take drink orders Laura didn't waste any time asking "Do you mind if I ask where you are from?" Come to find out she was from Ethiopia and had been here for 6 years. We showed her pictures of our little guy and told her the 30 second version of our story. She was very happy for us and asked if we would bring him by there when we got home. Of course we will. Pretty cool, huh?

But it didn't end there.

After dinner we had another conversation with her regarding where she had lived in Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) and it was then that she offered her brother, who still lives in Ethiopia, as a guide for us when we are there. She gave us his cell phone number and everything. Then she invited us to attend her church on Sunday - a traditional Ethiopian church service. And of course we are going - wouldn't miss it! So we exchanged all of our contact information with this incredibly kind, incredibly generous woman who we had just met about 40 minutes earlier.

So you tell me - how cool is God? He placed us in a freezing restaurant to change our minds and then guides us to a different restaurant and directly to the tables of an Ethiopian woman. He gave Laura the courage to speak up and talk to this woman that she didn't know at all. Like I said the other day - there are no coincidences.

So now, because we somehow managed to hear God through the hustle bustle of registering and everything else clouding up our eyes and ears, we got to meet an incredibly nice woman from our son's homeland, we have yet another contact in Ethiopia and we'll be attending what will surely be a very cool Ethiopian church service on Sunday.

We are so thankful that we have a God who cares enough about us to stay with us all the time. We pray that we can continue to see His presence and follow His will throughout this whole process.

It's amazing what can happen when you let yourself be led by Him.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Monday! AGAIN!!

On Friday we were expecting to hear from our agency on the status of baby e's health, but did not. They tried to get him to the doctor on Thursday, but pushed the appointment to Friday. We were sad to not get an update on Friday, but tried not to think about it too much (which is IMPOSSIBLE) over the weekend.

This morning, I came into work and checked my email. Once again, Monday's are WONDERFUL for us!!

An email from my agency said:

"The baby was checked by the clinic doctor Dr. Sophie on Friday the 14th of December 2007 and he exhibits no sign of sickness. He has responded well to the medication and has now fully recovered from his illness last week - broncho pneumonia. Happy Monday!!"

Praise God! Once again, our prayers have been answered! Now maybe, my sympathy cold will go away, too!

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for our sweet boy's health. Now, if we could just get him here to fatten him up!!

Love and hugs to you all!


Sunday, December 16, 2007

There Are No Coincidences

We definitely feel like we have been specifically chosen for this mission that God has us on right now. At times we've doubted ourselves and even questioned God - but He has shown us time and again to trust Him and He will lead us right where we are supposed to go. Some of the signs have been obvious, some of them we have had to really pray on and open our hearts, eyes, ears and minds to see.

I have learned countless life lessons throughout this process so far - but one thing that I know for sure is that there are no coincidences. God has a plan so much bigger and so much better than anything we can imagine here on earth. And just when you think you have it all figured out and you're right there in tune with God, He goes and shows you just how big He is.

This isn't just about us. We know that - it's about adoption and babies and people all around the globe, right? Well, yeah - but for the last 2 years God has been working right in front of our eyes. He has been building a community of friends and brothers and sisters in Christ right here in front of us. He has been making the proverbial villiage for us that may just be needed to raise a child.

He has worked in us but He didn't stop there. He has worked in people around us. He has worked in them - for them and for us. Does that make sense? He has surrounded us with prayerful people. People concerned about our well-being and the well-being of our child. People who love God and listen to Him when He speaks.

Selfless people. Humble people. People we love and respect and maybe took for granted. Ya know - I knew all this but I just didn't see it all until tonight.

We want to take a second to thank all of you. Every last one of you that God has put in our world. He is working in you all - whether you believe it or not. And we are so glad for that. We are thankful we have a God who is so big that he doesn't get bogged down in the things that bog us down. It's nothing for Him to change lives in the blink of an eye and change hearts and minds and souls at the same time.

We are thankful for every single person surrounding us in our lives and our community right now. And we are thankful there are no coincidences.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No news...

For all of you praying for and thinking about ebaby, I just wanted to let you know the latest. I contacted our agency yesterday asking if they had heard anything about our little man, but unfortunately, they had not. I sent her a list of questions and she was forwarding them on to her representative in Ethiopia. We hope to have an updated medical report by the end of the week. A doctor will check him once he has completed the weeks worth of antiobiotics.

Things we are praying for:

* ebaby's weight is back up
* ebaby's pneumonia is completely healed
* for God's protection over him while we wait
* that he gets lots of attention from the nanny's in his room

Thank you for all of your prayers and support while we wait for the day we meet our son. Each day is hard, however, we know there is a reason for this time. May we use it for God's glory and not waste it.

Psalm 5:3 says "In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

First Friday Rocked Our Socks Off

If you are adopting from China and you live in the metro-Atlanta area you know what the first Friday of any month means. It means getting together with a bunch of other adopting folks and hearing their great news, sharing yours, playing with all the fun kids and eating cookies. Oh yeah - awesome music and incredible speakers usually round out the night.

This past Friday was no exception. This honestly may have been the best First Friday we have been to yet. We are actually experiencing a lot of "bests" right now - and as Mark pointed out to me Friday night - it probably has a lot to do with that picture I am carrying around everywhere with me.

We met a bunch of fellow adopters for dinner - it was nice to see some familiar faces as well as see the newest face that is home from China - Shelby - and to see pictures of the next one that is on his way - the Ladmans received a referral last week and they are beyond excited. I know how they feel.

When we got to the church for the actual event I gotta tell ya - it was incredible. So many people have been praying for us and following us and so many people came up to us to talk about our little man in Ethiopia. It was really amazing. I know First Friday is really a group for those adopting from China - but they have embraced our concurrent Ethiopian adoption with as much excitement, joy and vigor as if he was coming home from China. For that I am so grateful and I know that God is pulling all these strings for us - our little man is going to have so many friends here. He doesn't know what he's in store for!

I don't want to be too long winded but I gotta give props where props are due. Dan introduced us to Carole Ford shortly after we got there. Carole is an amazingly talented, blessed and gifted singer, musician and best of all - prayer warrior. She told us that Dan had told her about us and she has been praying for us (whoa!) - and after us telling her a little bit about our story she asked if she could pray for us right there. I am not kidding - I think God opened the side door of the room and slid in beside her when she started. She is powerful. She is prayerful. She is passionate. She is real. She is incredible. I can not thank her enough for that prayer and her willingness to continue to lift us up in prayer.

On top of all of that I was just stoked to meet her. We have been so amazed with her voice and powerful presence since we started coming to NMC so it was a blessing and a treat for us. I mean we only had to adopt a child from Ethiopia to get to meet her - and it was worth it. Everyone should do it!

Amy Eldridge from Love Without Boundaries was an amazing speaker. I agree with Laura when she said "I could have listened to her speak and tell stories for days." I am pretty sure everyone was fighting back a tear or two in there. My sister is a nurse at Arkansas Children's Hospital so it was really cool to hear Amy tell of Dr. Buckmiller. My sister has worked with Dr. Buckmiller and told me her story while it was happening so it was pretty neat to hear it again from the other side.

We also got to see our little friend Sophia - who showed me her new trick of being able to spit up at the sound of my name. Quite impressive little Miss Sophia. Her mom and dad were there and it was great to see them too - they have been beyond excited about Ethiopia so we couldn't wait to share the pics of our little man with them. Thank you guys for eBaby's first christmas present - he is going to be as blessed as we are to know your family.

We want to thank everybody who came to find us and sought us out to tell us how happy and excited they were for us. Thank you to those who looked at the pictures and made us feel even more excited through their excitement. Thanks to God most of all - He is at work in that group of people there Friday night. He is opening new doors and helping shed light on new areas.

If you have never been to a First Friday - I say get to one as soon as you can. It's not something I would have ever imagined going to and now it is something I can't ever imagine missing. The people are special, the environment is electric and I can't describe it or explain it the way experiencing it would.

And while you're thinking about attending First Friday - do this - pray for what to do with your wait. A much wiser woman than me told us to do that (Thanks Susan!) and God has given us a laundry list of things to do to fill up this wait time:

  • Paint the house
  • Finish basement
  • Adopt from Ethiopia
  • Support an orphanage
  • Love
  • Pray
  • Study
  • Prepare
Some are easier than others - some have an incredible impact - and some of those will change our lives forever.

How does God want to use you during this wait time?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Thank you David Crowder Band...

Not much to say today except that I am so thankful for the God inspired words of The David Crowder Band. I heard these at the perfect moment today:

When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

Where there is pain
Let there be grace
Where there is suffering
Bring serenity
For those afraid
Help them be brave
Where there is misery
Bring expectancy
And surely we can change
Surely we can change

I just have to trust my Father that we ARE part of change...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Plays, Eats & Sleeps Like a Baby

Monday seems to be a good day for us. Last Monday we received the best pictures we've ever seen in our lives. This Monday we received some updates on eBaby and a little bit of background information on him and his medical records. I used to hate Mondays - I am kind of starting to like them.

The medical records weren't complete as they need to draw some more of his blood for some additional testing but we were able to get some specs on our little man. He is weighing in at a whopping 8 pounds and 13 ounces! Someone took good care of this guy for his first month on this Earth - it doesnt look like he missed too many meals! He is also stretching out to a full 21.2 inches long.

So now we are praying that he is safe and comfortable. That someone is there to comfort him when he gets more blood drawn - it's hard to know that he is being poked and prodded and we're not able to be there with him. But God is. And honestly, that's better than us.

We are also praying for his birth parents. I simply can not fathom the range of feelings and emotions that they are going through right now. They loved and cared enough about this little guy to put him somewhere very near a hospital - probably with the hope that a caregiver would find him. I know how much our hearts yearn for him - so I can only imagine that his birth parents are hurting right now.

Oh - my favorite part of the medical report?

Describe Child's Behavior: Plays, eats and sleeps like a baby.

Isn't that the life?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

We Are Blessed

We have really been blessed through this process of adoption. Not just with what God has done with us in terms of personal growth, understanding and a relationship with Him - but also with the amazing community of friends that we have come to know.

Last Sunday we finally got the chance for our schedules to synch up with Mark and Rebecca's so we could go by to officially meet little Sophia. What a precious little girl she is.

Laura and I had run a 10K with Mark but it was great to get to visit with this wonderful family all together and learn more about them. I "borrowed" this picture from their website.

We stayed WAY longer than we intended to and probably ate up their whole afternoon - but it was cool to hang out with them. They have been so excited, supportive and encouraging about our Ethiopia Adventure and we are so thankful to them for that.

Mark was also nice enough to give me my first crash course on diaper changing - not a hands on experience (Thank You!) but more like I was auditing a diaper class - I now know what goes in to that terrifying process and it isn't all that terrifying after all. Mark looked like he'd been doing it for years and knocked it out like a pro.

Less than 24 hours after our visit with these guys we got our referral - they might be our good luck charm! We just want you guys to know we cherish the friendship we have found with you and look forward to sharing your experiences with Sophia and Claire!

The Cracker Fairy

Sheridan can eat him some crackers! We had the opportunity to hang out with him for a little bit tonight and man - the little guy loves him some crackers.

I was a little worried that he wouldn't remember us - but there he was waiting for us on the porch when we pulled in his driveway. He grabbed Laura by the hand like she was some kind of Cracker Fairy and led her straight to the cracker dish and gestured with a polite "More." Man - can he eat some crackers. He eats them with passion too - not just chowing down - but savoring every delicious little crackery bite.

We got to share dinner with him and his parents and Laura got to help put him to bed for the night. What a wonderful family he has - he couldn't be in a better situation - any where! Sheridan and his family are all so excited for us and our Ethiopia referral so it was fun to just sit around and talk about that and to learn more about their story.

Thank you so much for the gifts and the time spent getting to know you guys better. We look forward to watching Sheridan grow and experiencing his life with him!