Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Reflections

This might not be what you were expecting under the title "Advent Reflection," but,'s what I was reflecting on today.  And really, it's right in line with what our family has been reflecting on this Advent Season.  It may seem weighty, even oppressive, but truly we are finding great joy in trying to fix our hearts on what His heart is fixed on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Please help us with this...VOTE for us TODAY!!

Our family has entered a video in a contest  with Dave Ramsey called The Great Giving Challenge.  If we are one of the three winners, we will get $5000 to GIVE AWAY to families who are raising funds for their adoptions!!

The contest has been going on for a couple of weeks already, and we just got our video submitted today (we found out about the contest after it started, and then had some technical difficulties) so we need to get a LOT of votes FAST because the voting ends on Sunday!  The ten videos with the highest number of votes will go to the judges, who will choose three as the winners.  You can vote once a day, and there is even an option to get an e-mail reminding you to vote each day!  Also, if you have a blog or a Facebook account, please post this for us.  The top ten videos on Dave Ramsey's website already have between 500 and 1600 votes, and we're just now getting started!!

PLEASE go to the following link and vote for us.  We are so excited about the chance to help at least FIVE children come home to their families.

Here's the linkAdoption Changes Lives Forever

Vote every day!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

One Year Ago Today

On November 2, 2009, Jim was in Washington DC receiving an award.  He rarely travels for his job, so that was unusual.  Meanwhile, I had made a casual inquiry into a listing on Rainbow Kids, a waiting list for orphaned children.  I hadn't planned to make that inquiry.  There were so many reasons why it wasn't practical.  We were already working with a different agency (and would potentially lose a lot of money if we switched).  We were really planning to adopt one little boy and then adopt another little boy in a year or so, and this listing was for siblings; a little boy and a little girl.  We never imagined a girl! So when I saw the listing, I ignored it.  Then a friend (a mom who had already adopted from Ethiopia) e-mailed me the same listing.  She had seen it too, and wanted to know if I had noticed it.  I e-mailed the agency which was representing those two children (thinking to myself, "I'm just curious.  We couldn't really pursue this, but it can't hurt to ask..."). 

So mid-morning on Monday I received an e-mail back from the agency.  It seems that somehow, even though the listing had been up since Friday, and I had waited and dragged my feet about responding to it, I was the first person to inquire about those two children.  The caseworker said that she could send me the file, but that I would need to let her know right away if I was interested.  I waited by the computer (I can picture it now with complete clarity; the computer was on the dining room table, which was stacked with various piles of things I needed to get done that day), and then it came.  The e-mail was titled, "Beyene Siblings information", and it contained medical reports, social reports...and pictures. 

I am not a particularly spontaneous person.  I like to plan.  I like to know what's coming.  I was undone at the thought of making a decision of this magnitude based on some sparse medical and social information, and three pictures.  And without my husband.  I was calling him frantically on his cell phone, and though he was hearing what I was saying, every time he tried to respond I could only hear static.  Finally, I did hear this; "Send me the pictures."  I e-mailed them to his phone.  I waited.  I called again, spoke with him, and again could not make out his response.  Then he sent me an e-mail.  I still have it.  It said this:

Let's go for it. God is big! I have to turn phone off but I will call latr.

So there it was.  I called the caseworker, and she said that I needed to fill out an application and send a check.  At that point, I was just feeling stunned.  And scared.  I sent Jim another e-mail, telling him some more details about our next steps, and telling him that I was scared.  He immediately sent me another e-mail:

God is good.  Those are our kids.

He was right.  On both counts. Those are our kids.  I'm crying now even as I type those words.  And God is so good; I cannot even begin to describe His goodness in bringing us to that day a year ago, and in every day since.  I cannot even begin to describe His goodness in the ways that He protected the children and prepared them to be part of our family, or the ways that He affirmed us through every step of the long months that followed as we tried to get them home.

I wasn't allowed to post those pictures last year on November 2, but I can post them now.  Here they are:

And here they are now:

God sets the lonely in families.  Psalm 68:6

Celebrating these "anniversaries" in our adoption is more than just reminiscing about special days.  These are milemarkers that point me to God's goodness, sovereignty, mercy, and grace.  To me, celebrating them is an act of worship.  Today our prayers are full of thanksgiving and adoration.  

Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.  
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.
Psalm 96:1-4 

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I came across this today:

What does it look like to lay down your life?  To live out the gospel? I guess it looks different for each of us, but I think a common thread might be that it might look foolish.  Even crazy.  And it isn't likely to be easy or comfortable.  But...oh, the joy.  I only know this because the weak, faulty efforts I've made to live out the gospel are always hard and uncomfortable, and probably look crazy.  But soaked with joy.  Just dripping with it.  Leaving me thirsty for more. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today my wonderful husband is 40 years old.  In general, he doesn't like his birthday.  Honestly, he just doesn't think he's worthy of all of the attention and gifts.  We know better.  The kids made this video for him and surprised him with it this evening.  It took me forever to figure out how to post it here, and I think the quality isn't very good, but here it is:  (oh, and in case you need an interpreter, Little Man thinks Daddy is CUTE!)

Happy Birthday Daddy! from Susan Kyner on Vimeo.

Happy Birthday to my husband and best friend.  I thank God for you every day.  (And I think you're pretty cute too.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Orphan Sunday

November 7 will be the second annual recognition of "Orphan Sunday." ( It's meant to draw attention, among Christians and in the Church, to the bibilical mandate to care for orphans. Jim and I will be attending the Mid-Atlantic Orphan Summit on Nov. 5th and 6th. Please pray for us that God will use that time to deepen and clarify our passion for Him, and our vision for our family. As I prepare my heart for the conference over the next several days, I'm going to post some videos made for Orphan Sunday. We are called to defend the fatherless. To visit orphans in their distress. I'm beyond thankful that God gave us the opportunity to adopt. But I also want to say that we could not have done that without many others who followed God's heart for orphans and prayed and supported us (and continue to do so) on this journey. What does caring for orphans look like for you?

Creation Groans from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I love my hair!

Hair is a big issue at our house.  I have four girls with four very different types of hair, from tightly coiled black hair to silky smooth blonde, and they are all beautiful.  I've had many conversations with the girls about how much God loves variety, and that He (and I) love all of the beautiful colors and textures of their hair.  I'm not surprised that Boo, my silky haired girl, wishes she had hair like Gracie.  It's because Gracie gets to wear beads and bows galore in her hair, and sports lots of fun styles that Boo's hair just can't manage.  But I always feel sad when Gracie says she wants hair like mine, or like Boo's.  I'm learning that in our culture, even in African American culture, silky hair is often seen as more desirable.  I really hope that when Gracie gets older, she won't want to chemically relax her hair as many girls and women with hair like hers do.  I'm sure that there are roots to this attitude (no pun intended...really!) that I may never completely understand, and that really for now Gracie is only wanting to be like her mom, or her sisters.   But meanwhile all I want it for Gracie (along with all of my children) to appreciate that she is "fearfully and wonderfully made" and to know that God has a perfect plan for her that includeds her wonderful African heritage and her beautiful curls.  Sooooo, when I came across this little video the other day, I was thrilled.  Gracie loves it!  Check it out:


On a very different note, Orphan Sunday is coming up on November 7th.  Watch for a few posts about that coming up very soon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A birthday, a good cry, and a sovereign God

Today is Gracie's birthday.  This day has been greatly anticipated at our house for weeks.  Not only by Gracie (who announced in frustration one day last week, "Mama, my birthday is NOT coming!"), but also by all of her brothers and sisters. So finally it is here.  And I spent the early morning hours crying at the kitchen table.  That's probably not a big surprise to those who know me well.  I'm a cryer.  But these tears honestly took me by surprise.  I did cry when Boo turned five last year:  I cried because she was my baby, and five just feels like the end of "babyhood" to me.  Five is such a...well...a big girl.  But I was looking forward to Gracie's birthday with no hint of any such feelings.  Then last night before bed, Boo started asking me to tell her what she was like when she was one.  And what she liked to do when she was two.  (She was in the mood for some bonding time with me, and she knows just what buttons she can usually push to get it!)  I answered her questions, but I did it quietly, and with some discomfort, because I was so aware of Gracie in her bed on the other side of the room.  I had just given her the "last hug as a four year old."  And as I reminisced with Boo I was all too aware that I could never answer those same questions for Gracie, although she has already asked some of them.

So this morning I sat down at the kitchen table, making a list for an early morning run to Kroger to take care of Gracie's special requests for her birthday meals.  I wasn't thinking about anything deeper than whether I should buy a cake mix or make it from scratch, when a wave of images and grief washed over me.  This is the day when we are celebrating her birthday.  The images that were hitting me hard and fast were of a precious baby born in a hut in rural southern Ethiopia.  A dirt floor.  A sweet cry.  The grandmother (who I know was present at her birth) holding up the baby in satisfaction.  Damp, warm brown skin.  Curling tendrils of black hair.  The tired mother smiling.  The father clapping his hands together.  Even as I write it the tears are coming again.  I want to be there.  I want to hold that sweet baby, and drink in the smells and sounds...breath the warm African air of her true birthday.  And I want to see her take her first steps across that dusty ground, and hear her first laugh (I love that laugh so much) and her first throaty words.  But no matter how vivid my imaginings are, those memories will never be mine.  They belong to Meselech, Gracie's first mother.  The realization that hits me, though, is that no matter how deep my longings are, I would never truly wish for anything different.  I have to often remind myself that God's plan for Gracie is perfect, and better than the easier, less painful way I would have planned for her.  Those first four years in Ethiopia have formed this child and made her who she is now.  And it cries out to me of her Maker.  Did anyone ever wonder why I call her "Gracie" here?  She is truly a picture of God's grace to me.  God has carried her through poverty and hunger and loss and grief, and He has protected her and drenched her with His grace.  She is a joyful, cheerful, funny bundle of little girl.  Having experienced losses and hardships I can hardly imagine, she is not bitter or angry of afraid.  She spent 6 months in an orphanage which, by many reports, was rife with abuses, and seems to have been surrounded by angels there.  She accepted the new family God gave her with hardly a glance backward...with a joyful abandon that has continued to stun and amaze me.  I have so much to learn from her.  Oh God, if I could face trials without being afraid, or without ever holding onto bitterness.  If I could let go of what You take, and latch on to what You give, and be truly thankful and joyful throughout it all.  

So I am sitting here now and relishing the knowledge of the amazing grace that God has lavished on my daughter and on me.  Our family is memorizing Psalm 139 right now (we're only up to verse 4 so far!), and really I chose it for Gracie and Little Man.  I know she doesn't understand a lot of those words, but she is parroting them back right along with her older sisters and brother.  And I'm praying that some day these words will be as meaningful to her as they are to me when I consider God's path for her life:

For you formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me
When as yet there was not one of them.

Happy birthday Gracie. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Six Months Ago Today....

I never posted any of these pictures six months ago; this felt so intensely personal and private, and I really did not have words to describe it.  I'm still not sure I have words, and these pictures still evoke intense emotion in me, but I am wanting to share them this morning. And some day (maybe on the one year anniversary) perhaps I'll even be able to put words to this story.  For now, here is a beautiful story in pictures; or really just the beginning of a beautiful story.  

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"

Romans 8:14-15

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Making the Days Count

This is a quiz for you.'s me preaching to myself in disguise as a quiz for you.
  • How often do your children entertain themselves (not interacting with you) because you are using the computer?
  • Do you ever find yourself feeling frustrated at the end of the day because of things left undone, yet you found time to be on-line?
  • Are there ever days when you spend more time on the computer/on-line than you do communicating with your spouse?
  • Are there days when you spend more time on the computer/on-line than you do with God (in the Word, praying, etc.)?  Or maybe you didn't find time to spend with your Best Friend at all, but found some time on-line?
  • When you are using your computer, what is your demeanor when your children (or possibly even your spouse) interrupt you?  Do you feel irritated or impatient?
  • When you are on-line for something "necessary" or "important", do you frequently find yourself staying on-line longer than necessary because you got "sucked in" to something, or started doing something that truly is just entertainment?
  • Is it really helpful to read a lot of blogs, or does it just cause you to compare yourself to others and to be left feeling inadequate (or prideful!)?
  • Are the things you do on-line edifying?  Are they generally helping you to be more holy?  To be a better wife/mother?  (Certainly some can be edifying, but many are not, and sometimes we can convince ourselves that something is when really it isn't).
Now, if necessary, try taking out the word "computer" or "on-line" and substitute "talking on the phone", "exercising", or maybe "watching TV" or even "reading" (or anything else that you notice occupying a lot of your time).  And, if you are a young person living with your parents, try also taking out the words "children" or "spouse" and substitute "parents" or "siblings".

Enough said.  I am going on an internet fast for the next two weeks (at least).  I will check my e-mail once a day (around 6:30 am), but am otherwise staying off of the internet and will use my computer only for homeschool related things as absolutely necessary (our history curriculum is digital!) 

Teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 91:12

Friday, July 30, 2010


God has been opening our eyes.  And filling our hearts.  I'm not going to make much comment on what I'll share with you in this post, as it really speaks for itself.  I know that these are hard things, but I know that sometimes it's tempting to think it would be easier not to know.  But there is so much more joy in standing right where He wants us to stand, even if it's not pretty or easy or clean.  In fact, I find that I really just want to turn my eyes away from much in my life that seems pretty and easy and clean, because it distracts me from the infinitely more glorious things that He has for me.

The following link is to a post written by an adoptive mom who traveled to Ethiopia to work with "the least of these".  She was doing mission work with Ordinary Heroes, and spent some time in a place called Korah, which is in Addis, the capital of Ethiopia (where Jim and I went to bring Gracie and Little Man home).  Korah is basically a dump, and is home to an estimated 130,000 people.  I know it's a long post, but I'm hoping someone will take the time to read it.  And to pray about what God might want your eyes opened to.
Here's the link:

And here's a video of Korah and of the hope that God can bring out of despair...through people who open their eyes.

Proverbs 24:12
Once our eyes are opened, we can not pretend that we don't know what to do. God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know and hold us responsible to ACT.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reality Check

Well, this should be an interesting post.  If any of you find blogs somewhat annoying because it seems they show a skewed picture of people's lives (leaving out the messy, unflattering parts), maybe you'll like this.  I wrote the first part on Saturday.  Didn't finish it because we got the kids up and I just didn't get back to it all weekend.  It was Tiger's birthday Sunday (maybe I'll post more about that later) and the weekend was really busy.  At any rate, I am just now getting back to this, but I knew before I even opened my laptop that I couldn't really finish the post as I had started it.  Here's what I wrote on Saturday morning:

I got up this morning at 6:30.  I know, I's an hour late.  But it is Saturday.  I'm working on it.  Anyway, I got up with something on my heart.  It felt like a rock.  I came downstairs and saw Jim reading in the living room.  I got my coffee and sat down.  I tried to keep it to myself, taking sips of coffee and picking up something to read.  But then I just blurted it out.  "I miss Africa.  I wish we were in Africa.  I wish we could just get on a plane."  I was close to longing was that great. 

My wonderful husband did not skip a beat.  He looked at me and told me that what I'm longing for isn't Africa.  It's God.  It's deeper intimacy and knowledge and closeness with Him.  He's right.  We talked for a long time about Africa and about what God is doing in our hearts and in our family.  Really, Jim feels the same way I do about Africa, and he dreams of being there too.  Somehow, God had a plan to rescue Gracie and Little Man by bringing them out of Africa, but somehow He had a plan to rescue Jim and I by taking us into Africa...and beyond.  We are changed.  We talked about things that have changed in our family since we got home from Africa.  Our appetites have changed.  We don't watch TV anymore.  We hadn't had cable in a long time, but we unplugged the little black box that allowed us to receive a few channels.  We changed what we eat.  The children all decided one day that we should eat oatmeal for breakfast every day and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day in order to save some money to help people who truly have nothing to eat.  (We've kept this up for about a month now.)

I was seeing fruit from the change in our routine.  Getting up early was giving me more time with God, sweet fellowship with my husband, and allowing us to start the day together as a family and in the Word.  I was excited and longing for more.  Fast forward a few days.  The lack of sleep is still catching up to me (thought I would've caught up to IT by now).   I have struggled with insomnia for years, and often my best sleep is between 4 and 7 in the morning, so getting up at 5:30 has wreaked havoc with my normal sleep habits.  I'm still trying to go to bed earlier, but it still hasn't kicked in.  This week I have just felt defeated.  I've been irritable with the kids, and even with Jim.  I fussed at him yesterday for coming home from work and reading the newspaper when I wanted him to be helping me.  And I despised myself because I wanted to be the kind of wife who had everything all under control, and who could maintain a peaceful home and a smiling countenance so that my husband could feel free to relax with the newspaper a bit when he gets home from work.  So, I got up this morning (5:45; close but not quite my goal) feeling deeply discouraged.  This time, I sat next to Jim and again tried to keep my feelings to myself.  Again I was near tears.  Sipped my coffee.  Sighed rather loudly so that Jim would ask me what was wrong (which he did).  So I told him.  "I can't stand myself.  I just can't get it right.  All I am trying to do is to be pleasing to God; to be the kind of wife and mother that He wants me to be.  And I can't even get up early and be a good mom."  (I whined some more and cried a little, but that's the gist of it.)  Again, he came back with wise words.  He pointed out that I was focused on what "I" could do rather than what God could do.  That there's no way "I" can do any of it right without Him.  He reminded me of all that God is doing in our family, and that Satan hates it.  That we should expect to be under attack, and not expect an easy road.

He's right, of course.  And right after he said all of that he went upstairs (it was 7am) and played "Reveille" on Tiger's trumpet, as that's how he's been rousing the kids to get up in the morning for family worship.  The kids stumbled down, we heard the Word, we sang.  We actually danced around the kitchen singing with Keith Green.  (Okay, we're freaks).  It feels better.  But I know that it's not going to feel better later in the day when the coffee wears off and the day starts to wear on me.  At that point, I'll go back and read this:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

I'm going to read those words, and then I'm going to substitute some of my own (thanks to Beth Moore for that idea):  I am convinced that neither lack of sleep, or my own failings and weaknesses and junk, or the busyness of my day, or the messiness of my house (etc., etc., etc.) can ever separate me from the love of God in Christ.  Amen.

And I'm going to keep praying for sweet sleep, and I'm going to try to keep obeying even if it doesn't feel good.  But I'm going to remember that I can't do it.  But He can.

Oh, and I also will add this one more detail purely for your entertainment.  At the end of our conversation this morning, after exhorting me to trust God, etc., Jim also said one more thing (in answer to my feelings of discouragement and defeat):  "Stop it.  Stop it or I'll bury you alive in a box."  And that dubious statement was a sort of inside joke in our marriage, referring to this hilarious video we saw a few years ago.  Here it is:

There you go.  A little up, and little down, and a little funny.  That's the way my life is going.  Not so bad, really.  :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

The 5:30 Club

I've set a new goal for myself this week; actually Jim and I both have.  We made a new schedule for our family, and it includes waking up all of the children just before 7am so that we can start our day with Jim leading family devotions before he leaves for work.  Our normal "family worship time" is in the evening, but we really wanted to start our day off with at least a short time of being in the Word and in prayer together.  In order to do this, though (and have time for everything else that needs to happen in my morning), I need to be up at...(gulp) 5:30am.  I'm sure some of you just don't think this is a big deal, but it is quite a challenge for me.  It's been 5 days now, and it's catching up to me.  By 3:00 in the afternoon I am dragging.  But I'm convinced that God wants this, so I'm going to push through.  My plan is to try to get up pretty early even on Saturday and Sunday so that my body keeps adjusting to this new insult accomplishment.  We'll see how it goes.

At any rate, the 90 minutes I have between my wake up time and waking up the children allows me to have a more extended time with the Lord, as well as some conversation with Jim.  And finally, if there's time, I can be on the computer.  I have to say that so far this weeks the results of this new plan have been mixed.  Though I'm excited to be up and in the Word, the family devotion time is precious, and it feels good to be ready to start the day by 7:30, I have also been feeling a little down and grumpy as the result of not getting enough sleep  (the fact that I'm getting up at 5:30 doesn't seem to be kicking in to my nightime brain, and I can't seem to fall asleep early enough).  I was needing a little encouragement, and this morning I found the following post, which I hope might enourage you as well:

It's really nothing new, but just what I needed to hear this morning.  So I'm starting my day off eager and motivated.'s only 7:30.  We'll see how it goes!

If any of you are up at 5:30, please let me know.  I'd love to think I have some company (and honestly I could use the accountability!  NOT that I want anyone checking on me at that hour of the day.  But you could always ask me later...)


Monday, July 19, 2010

A Summer Update

Is anyone still out there?  I know I've done an awful job keeping up with this blog.  I went back and counted; only 5 posts since we got back from Ethiopia over four months ago!  I'm planning on stepping things up a bit.  Honestly, it's for my accountability that I want to keep up with this blog.  I want to share all that God does in our family, but also I want to be faithful in what I am doing, and if I'm sharing it publically that just gives me a little more motivation!  We'll see how this goes; I started a new "schedule" this morning which I hope will allow me a little more time, including some time to write on this blog.  But here's the kicker...I have to get up at 5:30 am (which is quite a challenge for me).  My time with God comes first, then time with Jim, then (if there's still time) some time on the computer.  So here I am on day one (glad for coffee).

I'm not going to try to write much about what we've been doing this summer, but I'll post some pictures.  Little Man and Gracie are growing so much, and sometimes I can't believe how far we've come.  Here's a little review of our summer so far:

This technically happened before summer, but a precious friend visited from NC to meet Little Man and Gracie.  We love you, sweet friend!

This was the first day of summer, so of course the Popsicle Tree bloomed.  It always blooms on the first day of summer, and it always seems to happen right after the children go to bed.

Of course, you have to eat the Popsicles right away, in your pajamas.  Do you have a Popsicle Tree?  If not, they're very easy to cultivate.  (But very difficult to explain to a four year old with limited English.  Though to some extent, Popsicles seem to be a universal language.)

Picking peaches.  This is definitely one experience where a picture is worth a thousand words.

A day at Busch Gardens.  None of the children had ever been there, so this was a very fun "first" for everyone.

I'm learning a new skill this summer: 

Jim took some vacation time, and we were able to go camping.

Isn't this a funny picture?  I think he messed up her sand castle.  He's saying, "Who, Me?"

Yet another first; the first S'more!  (I think it was a hit.)
This was my favorite "catch"; an enormous bullfrog!
 Unfortunately, our camping trip was cut short by 6 hours of torrential rain. Still, all in all I think the trip was a success.  Even the rain didn't dampen everyone's spirits.

Hard to believe it's not even August yet!  Who knows what adventures may be waiting for us before the end of summer.  By the way, does anyone have any fun ideas about what might bloom on a "First Day of Fall" tree?  Pumpkin pie, maybe? 

By the way, I really did start this post at 6:15 this morning.  But I just had to come and finish it up at 10:00.  I'm glad I have a few weeks before school starts to hammer out this new schedule.  But I'm also glad it's July and that it's a slow, rainy Monday morning.  :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You did a bad job...and I love you.

I am longing for Gracie to have a sense of security in our family.  She seems happy.  She is generally just a ball of bubbly, giggly enthusiasm.  She wants to try everything and is sure she can do it "by myself."  She is cuddly and affectionate, and just can't get enough kisses and hugs.  But I still just have a sense that she does not have a sense of permanency here.  She has a strong drive to perform well.  She constantly asks if she's doing a good job, whether she's eating her dinner, coloring a picture, making her bed, or doing a silly dance.  If any of her siblings have displeased us, she needs to know if they have done a "bad job,"  and then needs to hear that she, indeed, is doing a "good job."  For several weeks the language she used was "good girl/bad girl" and "good boy/bad boy."  She wanted everyone labeled this way, and frequently wanted to know that she was a "good girl."  We were finally able to discourage this labelling (she would even label inanimate objects as good or bad:  a book was a "bad boy" if it fell on my foot!), but we still haven't diminished the approval seeking.  Honestly, there's very little she ever says or does that would be categorized as a "bad job" even if we wanted to do so, but sometimes I wish there was.  I wonder if she feels safe enough to scream or rage or tantrum.  If I'd been through all that she has in the last two years, I think I would throw a tantrum or two.  I love her so much.  And we just keep telling her we love her.  And she just keeps working and working to earn the love that she already has.  (Sound familiar?)  This might sound crazy, but lately I've taken to finding opportunities to let her know that she's not doing a very good job.  For instance, she's a horribly messy eater.  She's very aware of it, and makes sure I notice that she cleans up after herself if she makes a mess.  So I take the opportunity to tell her that she's not doing a very good job eating neatly.  I say it with a smile and a wink.  Sometimes she smiles back and asks if she's eating like a little piggy, and I laugh and say yes.  I tell her that she's not doing a very good job eating neatly, and that I love her.  I point out all of the crumbs on the table, chair, floor (and sometime on the dog who has taken to sitting under her seat), and I tell her she's really messy.  And that I love her.  I almost wish sometimes that she would completely let loose and scream and cry and bite and hit and kick.  So that I could gather her up in my arms and tell her that I love her, and that I will always love her, and that it doesn't matter what she ever does, she is going to be my little girl forever. Then maybe she would know and trust in her heart that it's true.  That she doesn't need to earn her place in this family, and that she will never lose it.

Isn't that what we all need to hear?  And isn't it what God wants us to hear?  I hesitate to draw this parallel, because I am so far from a perfect mother.  Let's just be honest; I'm going to fail her.  I'm going to get annoyed and impatient and...well...I'm going to sin against her (I already have).  But she and I both have a Father who will love us perfectly.  We don't have to earn it.  In fact, there's absolutely no way we ever could.  She and I are going to do a "bad job" on some level every single day, and He's going to just love us. I want her to know that love.  I'm longing for her to know it from me; to feel safe in my arms.  But ultimately I want her to know it from Him.  So I'll keep letting her know...very gently...that sometimes she does a bad job.  But I love her.  And I'll keep trying to soak up that same lesson for myself while I'm at it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

Today we went to pick berries.  It's a family tradition that we haven't missed in years.  Usually we pick blueberries.  We all love blueberries, and we try to pick enough to freeze some, but inevitably we end up eating most of them before they make it to the freezer.  Last year (actually tomorrow it will be exactly one year ago), we went to the same berry patch we visited today.  It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon (just like today), but the mood was quite different.  On "berry day" last year, we had just received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security informing us that they would not yet approve our application for adoption.  I think I remember crying (Jim's pretty sure I did, but he says I cried a lot that during that stage of our adoption!)  I wrote a post about that day here, in which I described the berry picking as cheap therapy, and I really needed it. 

Today was a different kind of day.  Unfortunately we pretty much missed blueberry season, but the raspberries were abundant.  And, of course, we're no longer waiting on anyone's immigration approval, or frazzled from filling out paperwork.  But even better, I can now look back on the past year and remember story after story of God's abundant faithfulness along the way.  I can look back and see that on the worst days, when I cried and felt overwhelmed and uncertain, God was not only paving the road home for Gracie and Little Man, He was also refining me and showing me His heart. 

So today we picked berries.  Lots and lots of raspberries.  Jim doesn't even like raspberries, and they're highly perishable, so I guess I'll be freezing most of them for smoothies.  (If anyone reading this has any great raspberry recipes, please pass them along!)  But it was a beautiful day.  I wasn't needing any therapy, but I was soaking in the joy of watching my family giggle and sweat in the late afternoon sunshine.  Hearing Little Man give raspberries the name "yummies" as he begged Sweet Pea for more.  Seeing Sunshine and Boo schooling Gracie on the finer points of berry picking.  None of us really cared about the raspberries, but none of us wanted to leave, so we kept picking. 

Here's a picture of our berry picking day last year:

And here's the picture from today:

I sought the Lord and He answered me;
He delivered me from all my fears.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Psalm 34: 4, 8

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sisters and Best Friends

Last week we got some information from Ethiopia which confirmed what we had already suspected:  Gracie is not 3 as we were told, but is actually 4 (turning 5 in September).  Which means that she is less than a year younger than Boo, who will be 6 in December.  Fortunately, for now at least, Boo is still able to take the lead often since there is so much Gracie can learn from her.  The two of them enjoy each other tremendously, but there is definitely a sense of competition between them at times.  Boo wants to play the big sister role that she was expecting, but Gracie sometimes doesn't want to be "big-sistered"!  Fortunately, Little Man is more than happy to be babied, so Boo can always turn to him when Gracie wants to exert her independence.  

Overall, Gracie and Boo are a great match.  Undoubtedly so, because God chose these two to be sisters before we ever imagined it.  They are upstairs now, tucked in together in Boo's bed.  I guess Kindergarten should be pretty interesting at our house next year!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Pics

Check out the sidebar; I finally added our two new additions to the "Pure Joy Kids."  I also gave them blog pseudonyms like the other children have.  I guess if I really wanted to be cautious, I would go back and change all of the earlier references to their real names, but I don't think I will.  I intentionally used their real names in the beginning because I wanted you all to pray for them by name (and please keep doing that, by the way!)  I do need to update some of the older four children's pictures; Boo's is new, but the others are from last summer! 

Here are a couple of pics from the last few days.  Hopefully I'll have more soon; I've realized I haven't done a very good job of keeping my camera handy in the last couple of months!


Monday, April 19, 2010


I was asked that question three times last weekend.  (Got your attention, didn't I?!)  The first time, I was in a doctor's office on Friday morning.  The doctor was considering prescribing an antibiotic for a presumed infection, so he asked me the obligatory question about possible pregnancy.  The appointment was a last minute thing, so all six children were with me.  Yoseph was on my lap, crying and smelling suspicious.  Mihret, Boo, and Sunshine were all either pulling toys out of the toybox on the floor, or zooming around the very small room with said toys (sorry if it appalls anyone that I let them play with those toys; it's a survival technique), and Sweet Pea and Tiger were trying to read despite the noisy atmosphere.  I'm not confident that this particular Doctor is very understanding of some of our family's choices, so when he asked the question, I just looked around the room, looked back at him for a long moment, and murmured, "no."

The second time, I was in the emergency room later that same night.  Nope, it wasn't an infection after all.  It was a kidney stone.  Ever had one?  Let me tell you how it feels. was like...  Okay I don't have a vocabulary of awful enough words to describe the pain.   Jim had to put all six kids in our enormous bus of a van and haul us all to the ER.  A couple of hours later I was wheeled into a room for a CT scan, and again, the question.  (Again, obligatory since I was about to subject my body to harmful rays).  This time I just moaned, "noooooooooooo."  (I would've said anything to get that scan done and get some more drugs.)

It was the third time that got to me.  Sometime Saturday morning (in somewhat of a drug-induced stupor, as I was still dealing with the kidney stone), I had a quiet moment with Tiger.  The night before (watching me writhing in pain, driving frantically to the ER where I threw up repeatedly in the waiting room, and then going home to bed while I stayed at the hospital) had been a bit traumatic for the children.  I asked Tiger if he had been scared.  I was surprised when he said no.  (I was scared!)  But I was more surprised at what he said next.  "I was hoping you were having a baby."  (Okay, he didn't exactly ask me if I were pregnant, but it's close enough).  This time I was stunned.  I was caught off guard.  I was feeling quite vulnerable.  And as a result I was able to really feel what I hadn't felt the first two times I heard the question. I felt a little sad.  I think he knew that I couldn't really be having a baby.  But on some level I think he let himself hope.  Maybe just because it was a better option than whatever else he might have imagined might be wrong with me.  But at least partly because he loves babies.  He loves having a "big family."  I love that kid.  Sunshine came in and admitted that she had hoped the same thing (they both might need to learn a bit about gestation; I'm not being vain, but I do NOT look pregnant!)  Sweet, sweet children.  I've thought a lot about those comments over the last couple of days.  And I know that (as far as I can discern) there are no more pregnancies in my future.  I've worked through that a lot, just between me and my Father.  But what I really, really realized as I thought about Tiger's comment was that children are a blessing from the Lord.  Oh, you've heard that before?  I know, I have too.  I've read it, I've said it, I've thought I believed it.  But let me just tell you that the last six weeks have been HARD.  There's a good reason why I haven't posted on this blog since the day we got home!  I'll go into all of that another time, but for now let me just say that children are a blessing.  All of them.  All the time.  Because God said so.  I am blessed beyond belief by these six, and I was so glad to know, when my heart responded to Tiger's comment, that I really believe what God said.  Oh, how I am blessed.  Although I truly don't wish I were pregnant, I savored the bittersweet feeling of sadness for a moment because I was glad I could recognize the gift it would be if I were.  I am so glad that we stepped out and walked where God led us.  And how I hope we never miss an opportunity to do so.  Yes, it's been hard, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.   And it thrills me to know that Tiger sees the blessing too, and yearns for more.  More of God.  And yes, even more children.  (I wonder how many grandchildren I might have one day?)  YES, Lord.  Right now Yosie is sound asleep; cuddled up with Tiger in his bottom bunk.  And Mihret is in her bed with Sunshine's favorite stuffed animal tucked in beside her. We are not the same family.  And yes, it's still hard.  It's easy to write sweet platitudes while the house is quiet and everyone but me is sleeping. But...we're not the same family.  And I'm thankful.

(One more thing; I cannot tell the whole "kidney stone" story publicly without thanking my precious friend who sat in the ER with me for hours so that Jim could take the kids home to bed.  God has blessed me immensely through you again and again.  Thank you seems inadequate, but...well, you know!) 

I think that was a bit "rambly", but hey...I haven't written anything in 6 weeks!  I'll leave you with a picture we took on Easter Sunday.  In Ethiopia, one wears traditional clothing on Holy days.  Nothing makes a white kid look whiter than standing next to an Ethiopian and wearing African clothing, huh?  But seriously, aren't they all so beautiful?


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thank you

I don't have the time or the energy to write a real post right now, but we are home! I just want to thank everyone for your love and your prayers. They carried us across the Atlantic, through the week, and back home again. I hope I am able to share more soon, but we are all at home together at last.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Homeward Bound!

It's Martha again.  Susan emailed this morning.

At this moment, it's nearly 6 p.m. in Addis Ababa where Jim, Susan, Mihret and Yoseph are at the airport awaiting their 10:30 p.m. flight.  They arrive home early tomorrow morning.  Let's all pray them home.

I can't begin to imagine what the next 48 hours will be like for Mihret and Yoseph  - traveling by plane for hours and hours, met by the enthusiastic smiles of their 4 new very blonde siblings, coming "home" where home still has snow on the ground.  Oh Lord, would you help them grow to rest in your perfect ways.

Mihret and Yoseph, for you:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord.  "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Update from Addis Ababa!!

Hi!  This is Susan's friend, Martha.  Susan got a message to me this morning asking me to update her blog. What a privilege!  (Especially since I'm sure there are many - like me - who have been by here multiple times everyday holding their breath for some news from Susan and Jim.)

I'll share what I know.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was "Gotcha Day" - the day Jim and Susan not only met Mihret and Yoseph for the first time but also took custody of them.  Emails from Susan yesterday before meeting the children, revealed an overflowing heart of faith and hope, an awe of God's goodness and a stomach full of butterflies!  ;-)

Much later in the day - after they had put Yoseph and Mihret to bed - I heard from her again.  She was struggling to express her emotions in written words.  It's completely understandable as I can't imagine how you put into writing those emotions you experience when you see/meet your children for the first time.  I hope one day she'll try to do so for all of us here.  She said that both children were struggling some with the adjustment and that Mihret finally fell asleep as Susan whispered prayers to their Heavenly Father in her ear.

Today was their Embassy visit which I'm happy to report they cleared.  It was a long and tiring day for all 4 of them as it sounds like there wasn't much sleep for anyone last night.  It's night there now and I'm  praying that they are all resting peacefully.

This morning was the first time since arriving in Ethiopia that Susan and Jim were able to talk with their 4 children here in the states.  Apparently, they have tried before but the folks on the state side couldn't hear them.  They have been relying heavily on email and text to communicate with their 4 sweet children waiting at home for them and Susan's sister, the "wonder aunt", who is managing 6 children, 2 dogs, and 1 guinea pig, and a RAT single-handedly this week.

They are also experiencing a power outage today - the first since their arrival.  I'm told power outages there are quite common.  I don't know if we'll get any additional updates from them until the power is back on.

Edited 3/5 as I miscalculated exactly how many children and critters "wonder aunt" was managing this week!

Friday, February 26, 2010


At about 11:00 this morning, my Mom and Dad left for Ethiopia! It,s hard to believe that just about 5 or 6 months ago, we didn,t even know about our children, but it is not hard to believe that God has brought us through this whole adoption process. It is going to be a beautiful moment when I see them for the first time. Anyway, my Mom and Dad are on they're way to Ethiopia, but they're flight was cancelled, so they are only about a third of the way there. I would like you to pray, if you aren't already, for my Mom and Dad while they fly to Ethiopia.

   I'll keep you posted, Sweet Pea.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sweet Pea's first blog post

Hi! Sweet Pea here. Today my Mom taught me how to put posts on the blog so that I could post while she is in Ethiopia. What you are reading right now is actually my first blog post ever. So, anyway, I hope I'll be writing down what's happening - in Ethiopia! (If my mom and dad are able to call and tell me what's going on!)  You'll know just about everything thats going on on the other side of the world. Things like meeting our children or visiting the care center. Anything exciting.

Well, that's all for now. Except one thing; my mom is adding a picture of our family. Sort of. I made us out of Legos. What do you think?

Sweet Pea

Monday, February 22, 2010

Because I am His

The other day I was telling  a friend that I used to wonder whether I would think our adopted children were "cute."  I know that probably sounds awfully shallow, but if you're a mother you know that your own children are always beautiful to you.  Our four "biological" children may not be the most beautiful children in the world to everyone else, but they are to me.  From the first moment I saw those wrinkly little faces as they emerged from birth, I was rapt.  They were, and still are, perfect to me.  And so I wondered, would I have this same unreasonable pleasure in gazing at the faces of the children God brought to our family through adoption, or was this a response that was somehow born through the process of biology and birth?  Well, now I know.  We frequently receive pictures of Yoseph and Mihret from the care center where they are living.  And they are, of course, the most beautiful children there.  (To me!)  My eyes are instantly drawn to them in a picture of a dozen other children.    I love them , and I delight in them. Because they are mine. 

And as I've been pondering this, God has kept showing me a deeper truth. Recently I was laying in bed wondering how God can look at me with any favor when I am so unlovable.  Being in a stressful, busy time definitely puts me in a position of being very aware of my sinful nature.  To paraphrase Paul, why do I do the things I don't want to do (get impatient, stressed, and out of sorts, fail to sit at the feet of my Lord), and I can't do the things I want to do (be patient, loving, kind, faithful)?  I have been feeling sometimes far from God, and often failing Him.  And I was struck with the truth that He doesn't, of course, love me because there's anything worthy about me.  He loves me because I am His.  Because He has adopted me into His family, I am beautiful to Him.  Because of Christ's death and resurrection, I am a sister and daughter in His family. He sees me as His own. Yes, of course I've known this before.  But now...I get it.

I think Mihret and Yoseph have already taught me more than I will ever be able to teach them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Lenten season

This may be my favorite time of year.  I know that we will have to modify some of our family traditions, given all that our family has happening during Lent this year, but I thought I'd offer a resource we enjoyed last year, and it's simple enough that I think we can even keep up with it this year.  It's a free download called "Lent Activities for the Family."  Just click HERE, then scroll down to the third item on the page (Lenten Tree and Activities Book).  (The first two books on the page sound great also, but they're not free!)
Blessings to you all during this season of Lent.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

To add to the last post...

Read this:  Special Hope Network: "How Lovely is His Dwelling Place".  This is the website of precious friends who are truly giving up everything to move to Africa and care for orphans with special needs.  We love them so much, and will selfishly grieve when they leave in April.  They are really much more than friends; they have filled the roles of friends, counselors, and pastor, as well as being just tons of fun.  This post, though, is not tons of fun to read.  It is, however, piercing.  Because it's the truth.  Do you want to hear it?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Count the Cost

If you've ever read this blog before, I'm sure you've gathered that we're excited about adoption.  When we were dating, Jim and I dreamed about adopting.  As a family, we've talked and prayed about adopting for years.  I can look back and see seeds that God was planting in our hearts over the years to draw us toward this plan that He had for us; even toward these specific two children that He has always known would be part of our family.  And I can tell you that there is an indescribable joy in being right where God wants you to be.  A sweet sensing of His pleasure when you step forward in obedience.  An experience of His blessing that is almost tangible.

But if you know me really well, you have also seen my fear.  There have been moments throughout the process of this adoption when I've hovered on the edge of panic.  I've spent sleepless nights wondering what we were thinking to take blind steps into this unknown place.  What might we be taking on?  What might we be giving up?  I mean, really; we're in a pretty good place.  We are financially stable even in this culture, and compared to most of the world we are ridiculously wealthy.  All four of our children are healthy (and at least in my opinion they are also beautiful, intelligent, and talented!)  We've had the opportunity to be educated, and to educate our children.  We have wonderful friends.  We are free to worship, as well as to do pretty much whatever else we want to do.  And here's the thing...I am so selfish.  I don't want my life to be harder.  I don't want to suffer.  Am I really willing to sacrifice?  This is what I am learning, and what I long for: that I would experience more and more deeply the truth that God is more satisfying than anything.  That there is nothing I have that I would not lose for the sake of obedience to Jesus.  That I would pursue whatever He calls me to with abandon.  I am so far from being there, but I am learning...I am. 

I am sitting in my comfortable house, on the couch, with my laptop on my lap and a heating pad on my back.  I hurt my back today lifting boxes (looking for clothes for Mihret and Yoseph).  I felt sorry for myself.  I wondered how I could possibly get done any of the things on my (very long) list if I couldn't even stand up straight.  In pain, I snapped at the children.  Without the frantic pace of busyness I've been keeping since we got our travel date, I started worrying about things.  Missed flights.  Power outages in Ethiopia.  Parasites. Lice.  Temper tantrums on 17 hour plane rides (maybe the children's; maybe mine).  Attachment disorders.  Long-term effects of malnutrition.  Racism.  Taking care of African hair (okay, that might seem out of place, but it's on my mind!)  And there are lots of others. But at some point, God just got ahold of my heart.  And I got it (at least for the moment).  So what?  What if we miss our flight (or worse).  What if there are lice, parasites, temper tantrums, attachment disorders, special needs I can't foresee?  Really?  What if our children (all 6 of them) experience painful challenges?  God is bigger.  He is better. Better than living a life that seems safe, comfortable, and predictable.  I want to be in the center of His will.  We've been reading and memorizing Psalm 91 lately:  He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  We've been talking with the kids about the fact that you can't be in Someone's shadow unless you're very close to Him.  And that's where I want to be.  And I don't think He is staying in the clean, safe, comfortable places.  Honestly, when I think about what we're doing in those terms, I feel like an idiot even considering that we're facing anything that might be considered "suffering".  There is so much more we could do.  There is so much more we could give.  I hope and pray that our children (all 6 of them!) will learn to live with abandon for God.  That they won't have my steep learning curve.  And I hope I keep learning too.

Here's something I read this afternoon that's worth checking out:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oh. My. Goodness.

I cannot seem to find the time to take a deep breath!  Or to write a post for this blog, apparently!  I'm hoping to find the time to write some more soon (sooo many thoughts I'd love to share), but for now I just want to offer this piece of information...

We're leaving on February 26.  That's 16 days from now.  We'll be flying out on a Friday morning and arriving in Addis Ababa on Saturday morning after a 17 hour flight.  We'll meet Mihret and Yoseph on Tuesday morning, and they will be with us from then on. We'll fly out of Addis on Friday night Ethiopian time, and arrive back at Dulles on Saturday morning (our time).  Somewhere in there, due to the time change, we lose an entire 8 hour night of sleep.  Might not make THAT up for a long time!

Please keep lifting up the prayers.  Oh, how we need them.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

YES !!!

Yoseph and Mihret are officially part of our family; we passed court!! We are so thankful to all of you who were praying yesterday and last night. I was overwhelmed to hear from friends who were up in the night praying for them (as I was!) As I was praying last night, this is the passage that I kept coming back to:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

We are so thankful, and so excited!  Though we still don't know exactly when we'll travel, it should be within 6 weeks.  By mid-March we hope to be home, with our family all together under one roof.

And even more good news; we also got an e-mail today from a precious mom who just adopted two children through our agency. She was at the care center last week and spent time with Yoseph and Mihret, and gave us a wonderful report on both children. The kids and I were dancing in the kitchen at hearing the good news of passing court as we looked at the first pictures we've seen of Yoseph with a smile. And yes, I can show you now! Here they are:

Mihret looking pensive

He smiles!

Brother and Sister

That's our picture she's holding!  (And yes, we sent her those M&Ms; it
may be a rude awakening when they realize our house isn't filled with candy!)

We will post more as soon as we know when we'll be traveling. We would love for you to continue praying for the following;  that all of the paperwork, medicals, etc. that have to happen in Ethiopia before we travel will happen as quickly as possible, that we will be able to get everything done here in preparation for traveling, and that Mihret and Yoseph will be protected as they stay in the care center for 6 more weeks.  And, that we will keep our eyes fixed on the One who is orchestrating it all.

We'll keep you posted!