Friday, April 29, 2011

The Week After Easter

"We never did the Empty Tomb Rolls!" R said this morning, as we finished our breakfast.  Empty Tomb Rolls, along with a few other traditions that we enjoy during Lent, didn't happen this year.  Every year we start out the season of Lent (and Advent too), with a frenzy of plans, activities and expectations, but some of them always fall by the wayside as the days go by and the busyness of "real life" co-exists with our attempts to make the days holy.  But I'm learning...that all of the days are holy. It's not just knowing that all of the days are's beginning to learn to live them as if they are. To experience the holiness of everyday. I love the week after Easter.  Or Christmas.  Or any holiday.  I look forward to those ordinary days perhaps more than I look forward to the days which are slated as "special" on our calendar.  The excitement, the frenzy of activity, the growing expectation, and then the joyful glow of the long anticipated holidays...those are lovely.  But there is also, for me, often a sense of unreality.  God doesn't use our calendar.  I do love to honor Him, and to offer up those special days to His glory, but my heart truly longs to learn to stay with Him in a deeper more consistent way...every day.  The quiet let-down of those "after holiday days" is often, for me, a time of deeper connection with God.  I've let go of the expectations of making the days special, and I'm knowing that it's only Him...without the rituals or traditions...just Him.

There's another thing too.  It's all of those special traditions and rituals that we never got around to during Lent.  We started out the Lenten season by drawing a slip of paper out of a bag every day...each slip with a special lesson or activity to prepare us for Easter.  Let's just say that there are still a few (quite a few) slips of paper left in the bag.  And we started reading a chapter each night from a book called Amon's Adventures, which we should have finished on Easter Sunday.  But God provided us with some different opportunites on the last few evenings before Easter...and we still have four chapters left to read.  And of course, there's always those Empty Tomb Rolls.  We prayed together a lot.  We learned some new worship songs which we can keep singing.  We dyed some beautiful eggs (I think my ears are still hurting from blowing out 35 eggs; you can see a few of them in the picture at the top of this post!).  Best of all, during those 40 days of Lent we worshipped and talked and read and worshipped some more about the good news of Easter, and I think MJ has really begun a journey of learning and understanding something about grace.  But we're not finished!  Easter (the Easter that's a day on the calendar) is over, but for us it isn't ever over.  So we're finishing up Amon's Adventures this week.  And today we're making Empty Tomb Rolls.  And we watched some "Easter Movies" this week even though Easter is over (at MJ's request). She just keeps wanting to hear the story over and over again.  The days are holy.  The days are holy.   

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yum! (This was supposed to be a short post about our dinner, but turned into a long walk down memory lane.)

Believe it or not, until tonight I have never tried my hand at cooking Ethiopian food.  There are a number of reasons for this.  First, when we got home from Ethiopia we were rather overwhelmed with life in general, and new recipes were not at the top of my "to do" list.  Also, Y and MJ had no trouble adjusting to our American diet; they ate everything we put in front of them, and lots of it, so I didn't feel the need to prepare foods that were more familiar to them.  Finally, we were less than enthusiastic about our experience with Ethiopian food while we were there (except for our breakfasts, which were cooked at the guest house where we stayed and offered fluffy french toast every single morning).  Almost everything we ate in Ethiopia looked, smelled, and tasted pretty much the same.  Actually, we came home feeling as though not just the food but everything in Ethiopian smelled the same to us.  It was the smell of berbere, an Ethiopian spice that seemed to us to permeate everything in Addis Ababa.  Even the money smelled like berbere (you can still smell it on the bills we brought home for the children).  On our first day in Ethiopia the smell seemed exotic and intriguing.  By the time we were departing for home it seemed cloying and clinging and not very appetizing anymore.

Fast forward about a year to our visit to an Ethiopian restaurant (about a month ago).  We all loved it.  All eight of us scraped the plates and downed every crumb of injera (Ethiopian flat bread, which is served with every meal).  As I look back, all but two of the meals we ate in Ethiopia were what I now somewhat affectionately refer to as "street food".  We were not allowed to go out of our guest house with Y and MJ, so most of our meals were ordered from the same mysterious vendor who, upon receiving a phone call from our guest house, would rush there on foot with a menu and take our order.  The menu included several Ethiopian dishes, along with spaghetti and ravioli.  We would place our order, and the man would disappear, then reappear shortly with our dinner, which always included large portions of injera.  We quickly discovered that "spaghetti" and "ravioli" were code names for pasta covered in some sort of berbere flavored paste.  We could also order pizza, which tasted remarkably similar to the spaghetti and ravioli, except the berbere paste came on a pizza crust, and was accompanied by little packets of some spice which we found to be painfully hot.  Jim bravely attempted to order an Ethiopian dish from the vendor one night.  It was called Beef Firfir.  He still doesn't like to talk about it.  This all sounds as if we have a very negative opinion of Ethiopian food, but I'm just saying that in retrospect we've realized that most of what we ate there wasn't very good Ethiopian food.  We did have two wonderful meals while in Ethiopia, both at authentic Ethiopian restaurants, but unfortunately it was the "street food" which left a strong impression.  (Y and MJ didn't mind it a bit, I must say; more than once MJ put away a man-sized portion of "Ethiopian ravioli.")  Oh, and Jim wants me to point out that we never had a bad cup of coffee while in Ethiopia (though I learned the hard way that you do have to specify that you want sugar when you order a mocha latte from Kaldi's, the Ethiopian version of Starbucks). 

When we brought Y and MJ home, we also brought a large bag of...berbere.  It has remained in our pantry for 13 months, tightly sealed in a freezer bag so as not to permeate all of our food with the smell.  So finally this week I decided to try cooking with it.  I found a recipe for "Ethiopian Sloppy Joes", an adaptation of a dish called Dinish Wat.    And when I opened the bag of berbere, I really did flash right back to the first day in Ethiopia, when that smell was exotic and intriguing.  (And I longed, as I have many, many times over the past 13 months, to be there and experience beautiful Ethiopia all over again.  But that's another story.)  I started preparing dinner, and while it was cooking I had to make a run to the grocery store and left R tending the pot.  When I came home and opened the front door, the whole house smelled of berbere, and I froze in the doorway because I was overwhelmed with the pleasure of it.  It's amazing how smells can spark memories and emotions.  And how time can allow lovely memories to overcome the difficult ones.  I was so excited to put that food in front of MJ, knowing how much she would relish it, and I wasn't disappointed.  It's been awhile since she's eaten a man-sized portion of anything, but she did it tonight.  Actually,  everyone loved it.  I'm even claiming medicinal qualities for this dish, because Jim has a bad cold and the berbere cleared his sinuses right up.

The next time I go to Ethiopia (can you hear a prayer in there?), I'm going to relish the Ethiopian food.  Even if it's "berbere ravioli."  I'm going to appreciate it...value it...enjoy it.  

Meanwhile, here's a shot of our "Americanized" Dinish Wat:

And here's a link to recipe:

Ethiopian Sloppy Joes

But if you want it to be really good, you're going to need some of this:

And I'm not sure if I'm willing to share mine.  I checked, though, and you can order yourself some on Amazon.  Enjoy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy

It's raining today, and I'm sitting in the kitchen with the rain sound soothing me, and little Y just laid down for a nap upstairs.  We've been singing "happy birthday" to him all day, and I know he doesn't really know what a birthday is, but he knows it makes him happy.  He keeps asking if he can "open" his birthday.  I know he means he wants to open a present, but I don't correct him, because I understand and I too want to "open" the day; unwrapping the layers of it with the anticipation of joy.  He's never celebrated a birthday before, and I have never looked into those brown eyes and celebrated with him, remembering the long string of days and years leading up to that special day the way I have with the older children.  The ones who grew inside of me, with all of the days of their lives laid out behind us in a familiar path. 

Last year I had only known him for a few short weeks when his birthday came, and we passed the day with little fanfare because we knew he wouldn't understand, and we didn't want to further confuse him or his sister when there was already so much adjusting to be done.  And I...would have struggled to celebrate the way I can today.  Because I was struggling to "find" him.  I was looking into little eyes which often looked back at me with cool detachment.  I was holding and hugging and carrying a little body which melted just as easily into the arms of any stranger.  But now I have days and weeks and months...adding up to more than a year...of knowing him.  Knowing him. He has become familiar to me.  His eyes look at me with delight and trusting expectancy.  His arms reach for me. His little voice calls for Mama, and I know it's not just a longer just a label that he uses to have a need met.

I carried him upstairs to his nap just now, singing to him as we went.  And I sang as I laid him on his bed, and his eyes were on mine the whole time, and they were twinkling with the pleasure of it.  The pleasure of "happy birthday" sung again and again, and the pleasure of the moments alone with Mama, and of snuggling into the bed and me stroking his soft blanket against his face because I know he likes that.  And I knew that he wanted the fan on, and I knew that I would turn and walk away and make it almost to the door before he would call me one more time.  And I heard the words he always says..."Hug, Mama."  I go back and hug him one more time, with him smiling  and his eyes sparkling because he knew I would come back and hug him again.  And I looked down at him and realized, tingling, that it had happened.  I had wondered for so long if it would ever come, and now I saw that it had come upon a soft blanket placed on a sleeping child, because I had never been aware of the moment it came, but only relaxed in the warmth of it.  The warmth of feeling that he is mine in a way that is sure and safe and abiding.  That the invisible, steely bond that existed from birth between me and his older brother and sisters, now holds him to me as well.  I looked down at him and had a strange soft shock of remembering that he did not grow inside of me...but knowing that he is just as much part of me as if he had.

And now I sit and ponder all of this (I'm thinking about Mary, and how she "treasured it in her heart"), because I am seeing once again how we prayed that God would bring us children from Ethiopia; children who needed love and healing, and that He would let us love them, and help us to help them heal and grow. And then how He brought them here, but that He has just as surely been healing  and growing me.  Because all through this last year God has been showing me that I was living like an orphan.  That I didn't really know how to love Him.  That I sometimes look at Him with that same cool detachment with which little Y once viewed me.  That I too often look for my sustenance and support from arms other than His.  I am learning to know and trust the invisible, steely bond that has always been there to connect me safely to my Father.  I have placed my trust in Him again and again as I walked the hard path of the last few years, and He has never failed.  I am learning to know that "Father" is more than just a label for a distant being who holds authority over my life.  He loves meI am safe in his arms.  He sings over me...delights in me.  He will always be there when I call to Him.  Can I ever, ever teach Little Y (or MJ) anything that compares with what I have learned through having them in my life?  I can't...but I will be a vessel through which their Father will teach them.  I can trust Him for that too.

The rain is not darkening the brightness of this milestone for me, or for my littlest son.  I have had some moments of grieving and praying today for Meselech (the children's Ethiopian mother), but this date on a calendar is not something that she is aware of.  This day is for Little Y and for us, and it's a gift.  We're going to keep opening it all day long.

(By the way, I've dropped the children's "blog pseudonyms" and I'm just using their initials.  If you know us in real life, you'll know who I'm talking about without having to remember the nicknames...and I won't have to keep up with the nicknames either!  If you don't know us in real life, their initials are under their pics on the sidebar.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Prayer

The following prayer is from John Wesley, and I happened upon it just now through a series of somewhat unlikely twists and turns.  These words are just what my heart needed to hear today, and so of course my Father provided them to me.  Because He gives me everything I need. Every day, all the time.  Why do I doubt?  Why do I sit harboring my secret fears and wondering if I will have the strength to walk through some trial that has yet to come?  He is unfailingly patient with me.  He continues to gently speak the truth when I am all but covering my ears with my hands.   Honestly, my heart (which just moments ago was aching) is filled with joy because once again He just whispered that He loves me, by offering just what I needed to sustain me.  I am going to copy this in my journal, and read it often today.  I thought these words might speak to someone else's heart as well as mine.

The Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but Yours.
Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will;
Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
Let me be employed for You or laid aside for You,
Exalted for You or brought low for You;
Let me be full, let me be empty;
Let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.
You are mine and I am Yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

(and Amen again.)