I Need Your Input Please!!

Ok Moms (and anyone else!) I need your input!! Mekonen has entered into that in-between stage in his toddlerhood. The one where he has pretty much "outgrown" all of his current toys but yet is still not ready for preschool stuff. We are leaving our very nice previous stage of activities that were fun and stimulating for us to do together, and also the ones that kept Mekonen engaged on his own. We need some new ideas!

We don't have a lot of extra cash to spend on new toys (so that will have to wait for Christmas), and we don't want our kids to be entirely dependent on commercialized toys with lights, sounds, and batteries either. We want them to learn to use their imagination in play and be creative.

Mekonen is still a little young for the arts and crafts stuff. Last week when we attempted to color he ate the entire green crayon and bit large chunks out of a piece of chalk. We are also not really doing TV for our kids either.

So I need your advice! We need your ideas on some new activities.
1. Activities that Mekonen and I can do together.
2. Activities that Mekonen can do on his own.

Can't wait to hear some things that you like! 


Mekonen's 1st Gotcha Day!

August 21, 2009 was the first time we met Mekonen face to face in Ethiopia! We have chosen this day to celebrate his "Gotcha Day" (or Adoption Day). Wow! Has it really been one year already since I met this darling little boy in Ethiopia? I can't believe it. Wow! He sure has grown. We sure have grown. What an amazing year it has been!
Mekonen dressed in his traditional Ethiopian outfit to celebrate his special day! 

We celebrated Mekonen's day by going to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. It was so yummy! Mekonen chowed down the injera bread. Everyone who had their first try at Ethiopian food said they really liked it!
(Ignore my very awkward facial expression. Ha!)
After dinner we went back to our friends house for cake, some presents by our extremely thoughtful friends, and a very special video.

Mekonen enjoying his Gotchda Day cake with Daddy. Definitely had to take the shirt off for that one.
I made a video lifebook of Mekonen's adoption story to show at his party. It was 25 minutes long. TV usually does not hold Mekonen's attention but he sat there staring at the screen the entire time, completely mesmerized!
Mekonen watching his video with Mommy.
All three of us watching the video.
Our friends the Urrutia's came to celebrate with us. Their little girl Macie was at the orphanage the same time as Mekonen!
We're blessed to have so many people who care a lot about us and our little family... and all those who weren't able to make it. We love you!
Our family of three... started one year ago!
And.... that sweet babe.


Will You Be Radically Used by God?

I am utterly and extremely exhausted. Mekonen is napping and I decided to take the plunge and get a couple hours of rest myself. But lo and behold, 4 beautiful faces keep coming to mind, and I literally cannot sleep. These four beautiful girls are living at the Layla House orphanage in Ethiopia (where Mekonen was), waiting for a forever family. The thing is, their time is running out. If these girls are not adopted soon, they will never have a family. They are quickly approaching the age limit of adoption in Ethiopia. It's difficult to think of what their life is going to be like if no one comes for them. This, is keeping me awake. This is making my heart incredibly restless.

I just can't imagine. Imagine it... imagine what these girls are thinking and feeling every night as they go to bed, hoping and praying that someone comes for them, and soon. They know that with every passing day that they don't receive word that there's a family for them, is one day closer to them stepping out of Layla into a scary, difficult life, not stepping out of Layla with a renewed sense of life and hope. I just cannot imagine the anxiety that fills their hearts. That fills the hearts of these beautiful girls, made in God's image, that He loves dearly. While making Mekonen's adoption lifebook video, I was watching lots of clips from Ethiopia. I saw these girls in one of the videos at the goodbye party. Their faces were sad watching all the names of the babies and younger kids being called up front with their new families. The drums were sounding, the kids were singing loudly and cheering. These girls were participating, but you could also tell by their faces they were wondering if their party would ever come.

Imagine your daughters, nieces, etc., at 14 and 15, with no family, being forced out of the only "security" they've known, the orphanage, into a life without a family in a difficult place. My mind has to stop there. It has to. I just can't do it.

My plea is for a family, someone to step up, and do it, just do it! Take the plunge of the greatest ride you will ever be on. Take the plunge in trusting that God is more powerful than we could ever dream and has things for our lives that are more incredible than we could ever imagine. I wonder how many times we miss incredible blessings because we simply don't take that huge, next step. Adoption is not about "a feeling," "a calling," "a question of God's will or not," sometimes it's just something you get up and you do.  Maybe, just maybe, God has a family make-up for you that you never even dreamed of.

So, without further ado, I will introduce these beautiful ladies. If you are interested and want to see their pictures, let me know.

 (I can only use first name initials for them on here). M and K are sisters ages 14 and 15.  While M loves to sing and wants to record her own album of love songs some day, K is more interested in playing soccer and other sports. K remembers many funny stories of their original family like hiding porridge under the bed and her father trying to test to see if they had eaten sugar. M's fondest memory, however, is a year she spent at her brother's house being cared for after an illness.  Both of these girls are popular in the compound at Layla and both are interested in returning some day to build homes for the homeless in Ethiopia.

K is 14.  She would like to become a dentist some day.  She is very neat and organized and describes herself as reserved.  She hopes to return to Layla House and adopt a child from there.  Her best memory is of getting to see her Mother after three months to say good bye to her before she died. Her name means "Promise" in the language of Ethiopia.

M is 15.  She is active and outgoing and loves playing soccer and ping pong.  She wants to remember always her original family as well as the country she came from and hopes to one day find a husband who is a "good man."  While M admits she sometimes has a short temper, she also says that, "when there is love, there is everything."

Please, consider these girls. See them, their lives, and your lives, through the eyes of Jesus. (And yes, we have already inquired to our agency about those about to age out of orphanage, but we were told we were a little too young). 

Despite whatever lies Satan might be trying to tell you, do you think God is calling you to live a Radical life, one with a globally minded purpose that makes much of Jesus by offering life to someone who needs it? After all, didn't Jesus do the same for us?


Mekonen's 1st Kiss

Mekonen and Sosina back together again!!! While Mekonen and I were in PA, we spent some time at my sister's in Philly and were able to have the Witmers over for the afternoon! What a much needed visit for me! There's nothing like dear friends who just "get" so much of us!

And now, more pics to include in Mekonen & Sosi's wedding video. We even captured their first kiss on camera! Who says arranged marriages are a thing of the past?!?!
That first getting reacquainted hug! Sos is not so sure about this.
But plop them on a trike and they're back in the game!
Donovan trying to get Sosi to push Mekonen on the trike. It wasn't happening. Haha.
 Playing soccer with Donovan. They're both very athletic! Look out everyone!
Sosi, clearly on a mission.
Playing together.
Julie & I with Sosi, Mekonen, and my niece and nephew, Aderyn and Manny. They were so excited to finally meet Sosina. They were waiting all day for her to come!
Love, love this picture. And I just love how extremely happy Mekonen is. I don't think his dimple could get any deeper. He's got his mama and his girl right next to him. Oh yeah, and his future mother-in-law too!


Celebrating Life

Wow. What an exhausting last several weeks. I feel like I'm finally beginning to settle back into something, although sometimes I'm not sure what that something is!

I said "see you later" a few weeks ago to the Grandparent I was closest with. "See you later" because she gave her life to Jesus and is with Him for eternity, where I will one day be as well. What a sweet and joyous reunion that will be.

My Grandma Judy & I when I was 4 years old.
I haven't blogged for awhile for many reasons. One, saying "see you later Grandma" was much harder in the deepest parts of my heart than I anticipated, and much more than I let on. It always seems like it will be easier because I will see her later. But it was hard. I just felt emotionally exhausted. Two, I have sat down a few times and couldn't find words to do her and the grace and mercy God has showered on her life justice. And three, I've just needed a break, almost feels like from life! My house is a wreck, my graduate work has gone untouched for weeks, my blog vacant, and all the extra things we've been pursuing have been left on the back burner... it just feels like too much energy at this point. But, I'm feeling on the mend. Jesus is alive and powerful. The protector of my heart, the healer, the restorer.

We all gathered in Kennebunkport, Maine where my Grandma spent the last many years of her life. Her and her friend Sue owned a lovely bed and breakfast for years and retired it in 2005. My Grandma's Memorial was a beautiful time of celebrating her life and celebrating what God has done in the life of our family...the way God has continually pursued our family through the darkest of years and the brightest of years. It was a beautiful testimony of the restoration found in Jesus, of the mercy and grace he constantly pursues us with.

My Grandma's 16 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren (missing two in the picture)
My mom, sisters, and I spent the day after the funeral going through all my Grandma's stuff. It was something I originally was not looking forward to in the gut of my stomach, because I was afraid of the sadness it would bring. But actually, it turned out to be a great time. It was sweet to go through her things and remember all the memories and things through what we found. She kept most of the letters and cards I've sent her over the years, and one of my favorites was the one I wrote to her way back in college telling her all about this special guy in my life named Jon. I told her she would be so proud of the kind of guy he was! I even included some pictures for her of him back then. It was cute. We found poems my Grandma wrote a long time ago as well, and I was able to take an old family jewelry box and a ring of my Gradma's.
The jewelry box and book of poems.
Since I can't even begin to write or describe all the things about my Grandma that I want to. I will just highlight a few things.
  • She was that over the top, fabulous, eccentric, out of the box family member. She was not your typical Grandma by any stretch of the imagination and she had the coolest old lady wardrobe ever! I mean really, how many granddaughters inherit TONS of really great shoes when their Grandma passes away? She always wore eccentric accessories including lots and lots of hats! So in honor of her, us girls wore hair accessories to her funeral (some of the little girls did too, and it was quite adorable). 
  • She was probably one of the most gullible people I have ever met. You could tell my Grandmother just about anything and she would believe you! Once as a kid, I bit off the tops of candy corn and told her I lost some teeth. The "Tooth Fairy" magically visited me that night at Grandma's. Ha!
  • I think her snack and drink choices have never changed in all my 27 years! She only drank diet Schwepps Gingerale and Diet Pepsi. I think both of those liquids had replaced the water content in her body. She loved anything lemon and had a major love for Starbucks coffee ice cream, Smart Pop white cheddar popcorn, strawberry sundaes with strawberry syrup (always said with her most adorable New England accent) fig newtons, and whoopie pies.
  • My Grandma had a knack for falling asleep in mid-conversation, waking up 30 minutes later, and continuing right where she left off, completely oblivious to why we were all laughing hysterically. (Note: this is why we were never allowed to drive with Grandma in her younger years. Haha).
This list could go on and on, but I will finish with part of what I shared at her funeral. My Grandma was always young at heart. About two years ago, we were visiting Gram during the winter. We drove through a huge storm and there was tons of snow.  We were sitting in the living room and Grandma went to take her dog outside. She got all bundled up in her snow gear and headed out. She didn’t know we were watching from the window. She got to the top of the driveway, which is a little bit of a hill, turned her walker around, sat on the chair part of it, and pushed off! Down the driveway she went arms and leg spread out, happiness spread all across her face as she let out a shriek of joy. She got to the end, and it took her about 5 minutes, but she got back to the top of the driveway and did it again! I guess it was her version of sledding! After she got back to the bottom the second time, she got off her seat and made several snowballs and were throwing them all over the place with much enthusiasm. She started walking back up to the house and I see her plop on the ground. I jump up, thinking she fell, but when I caught site of her again, she was making snow angels in the snow! I didn’t get my camera until she was up the stairs and into the house. She rounded the corner as if nothing unordinary happened. I smiled so big and said, “Grandma, looks like you were enjoying the snow! Smile!” And I took her picture as she struck a classic Grandma pose, hands poised, head tilted back in a sassy cute kind of way. Watching that snow scene unfold was like looking through the sweetest storybook, and as much as I wanted to grab my camera to capture all her snow activities, even more, I didn’t want to miss out on seeing her experience such joy. I wanted it to last forever. 

 My Gram when she came in from the snow that day.

I realized as I was writing out this story, that now it is lasting forever. The joy, happiness, and childlike heart she had in the snow that day, is what she is experiencing right now, in the presence of Jesus. She met him last week. Jesus. The one who created her. The one who sustained her entire life. The one who loved and pursued her. She met him. She stood before him, before Jesus. The fulfillment of hope for her. The longing of hope for us. 

My Grandma that showed me parts of her heart that were real, raw, and challenging. She has always believed in me and the calling God has placed on my life. Always told me that she knew I would continue to love and serve Jesus. Always told me she was incredibly proud of me. Always encouraged me to remember the Lord and how He has blessed me. These conversations were great encouragement for my soul. 

People falsely claim that because they believe in God, they will be shielded from harm, and if it finds them it will not hurt too badly. Equally insidious is the false claim that if pain finds you it is evidence of a failure in your beliefs. That is a lie that I think we may sometimes tell ourselves so that we can feel like we are in control. This is not the message we were intended to hear.

Life is full of beautiful people, knowing Jesus, yet experiencing dire pain. No, our lives will not be absent of pain, but the way we process that pain is what will be different. The journey of those painful experiences is what differs.
 Grandma & I at my wedding.
 No, your faith or your beliefs cannot change your odds. It doesn’t hedge your bets, and it doesn’t build up a buffer zone that will keep life’s circumstances from finding you. BUT, it can shape your perspective on the narrative of your life.  I Thessalonians 4:13, says, “We do not want you to be uninformed brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.”

Life is not supposed to be this way. We were not created to experience pain like this. We were not created to experience death. God did not create the world and life to be this way. Then sin entered through Adam and Eve and it all changed. Death, pain, and sadness is now interwoven throughout our lives. It is because of this, that Jesus came. He came to be a rescuer... to rescue us from this world that is not how he made it. He sent Jesus to die for our sin, to rescue us. And one day, he is returning, but not as a humble, gentle baby this time, like we celebrate on Christmas day. This time, Jesus is coming as a Warrior, coming to complete His rescue mission, coming to make everything right again. One day, the pain of losing Grandma will be made right.
And so.... we have HOPE.


Need Help

It's been a really long almost two weeks. My Grandma passed away and we've been in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine, and back to Pennsylvania, where I still am until Friday. It's been a good time with family. A bittersweet time saying goodbye to the grandparent I was closest with. I have had no time or energy to post, and really no words to put to all I want to say. But I will be back in the next few days!

In the meantime, I have a HUGE favor to ask.

I am in a trial period for an extra side job of publishing articles for a blog. I can become a permanent paid blogger for them depending on how well my trial articles do (meaning how many people view my article and hit the subscribe button under my article). Even if you are not interested in anything I have to say, and... even if you don't read it, will you please go to my article and hit subscribe? I also get points for comments at the end of my article (if you want to make something up) and if you sign up for Twitter for them. http://blog.clariity.com/newborn-and-toddler/babies-are-what-they-eat

 I would really, really appreciate it! If I have a certain amount of people do this, they will allow me to be a regular paid blogger, which would be a huge help for us!