Monday, January 7, 2013

Melkam Genna, a year later

A year ago this morning in Addis Ababa, I anxiously awaited a driver named Binyam (who ran on Ethiopian time) to arrive at the guest house to drive me and the other parents who had arrived in Ethiopia before me over to the orphanage to meet my children!

I had consumed multiple cups of super strong coffee, forced down some eggs with shells mixed in for good measure, chatted with the families I had only previously met through emails, and kept glancing out the door like a crazy person.

Finally, he arrived, I ran around announcing to the other families that he was here and it was time to GO!

The long, bumpy ride through the streets of Addis seemed to take forever. It was a familiar ride - horns beeping, goats and cows interweaving with people on the sidewalks, children in tattered and torn clothing, mothers begging at cracked open car windows, buses crammed so full of people I started suffocating just looking. Finally, one of the other mommies said "this is the street" and I felt my heart rate triple instantly. I fumbled with my cameras, asked others to take photos, mumbled something about not photographing my hindquarters, wiped sweaty palms on my jeans and grabbed the seat in front of me as we hit every pot hole down the alley to the gate. The van stopped with a jerk and the driver turned off the engine. Immediately little hands and toes appeared at the gate as children were shouting that someone was here.

I was so incredibly nervous.

Would I recognize them from their photos? Would they know me? Would they run away? Would they even like me? Would they be afraid of me or turn into show-offs? Would I like them?

As we piled out of the van and fumbled towards the gate, I remember thinking this was lacking any sort of pomp and circumstance. I'm about to meet my children! Where is the ceremony? Where is the parade? Life just goes on all around us like the entire world isn't aware of how this meshing of two worlds is about to change the lives of 14 people forever!! Don't they care? Shouldn't there be a moment of silence and some sort of... something?? This is EPIC, people!! Somebody make an announcement or stack up some rocks as a monument to this moment!

Then the gate creaked open on it's rusty metal hinges in that sound that normally races up my spine like a horror film sound track... but I barely noticed. I was scanning the sea of faces looking for the ones that belong to me.

I saw her. The baby of the five... looking up at me with those big eyes that we now joke would allow her to get away with anything. She looked nervous, so I smiled and walked inside the gate. I recognized them immediately, even mingled in with the other children. In my head, I was matching names with faces and trying to absorb everything my senses were picking up.

In this 15 seconds of elapsed time, suddenly I realized I was standing within the same 4 walls as the children I'd been dreaming and praying about for the past 5 months and I reached down and scooped up that baby girl and squeezed her tight.

She giggled, hugged me back and started inspecting my necklace, sunglasses, ponytail and face. The other four were right behind her, clamoring for hugs and inspecting this white lady from their photo albums. There was this somewhat awkward moment when we were all just looking at each other and across the lines of two languages there was an understood emotion of "It's really YOU!" in the air. 

Photos were taken, videos were rolling, and I think the only word I was able to say was "Wow..." for about 5 minutes.

 This day was incredible to say the least. It also happened to be Genna - Christmas in Ethiopia where they follow the Julian calendar. We played and hugged some more, saw everything there was to see that they wanted to show me, and then had a Christmas feast together complete with goat, lots of things I couldn't identify, lots of injera and lots of coffee. The kids drank soda and I attempted to choke down a tiny glass of honey wine out of respect.

I don't remember much of the rest of this day except for an overwhelming sense of peace - I had met them, they were wonderful! Any fears I had previously had about adopting older kids, older boys, a large group of children all at once, or anything else I'd imagined or read about online... were gone.

Melkam Genna, Ethiopia.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Blessings of Christmas

December blew me away.
I've talked before about how the Lord always provides for our family...but I need to share about the past month.

The first blessing of Christmas occurred just after we returned from Thanksgiving with Paul's parents in NY.
We were just running low. Low on gas, low on groceries, low on cash and low in spirit. It was just one of those times...more bills and unexpected stuff on top of an already tight budget and we were waiting on payday. It was no fun.
I just prayed "Lord...what's going on?! I feel forgotten right now."
I got a call from a friend who asked if I was home. Frankly, I had no desire to see anyone... I was just in a funk. I had a headache (and a side of pity party) and I almost said for her to please come any other time... but that nagging voice in my head said to tell her to come now. Well, she showed up with 3 cases of leftover cans, boxes, bags and turkeys from some local holiday meal thing! Suddenly I was standing in the kitchen filling up the pantry and planning meals.

Christmas continued to amaze us when church friends started leaving anonymous cards with cash or gift cards, cards came in the mail with grocery cards and Target cards and people were dropping envelopes in my purse at church!
One life group from our church collected money to bless a family with and they picked US! The same friend who brought the food over that day called to see if I would be home for another delivery... so you can imagine my surprise when it wasn't her carrying a turkey, but the sweetest couple at my door with a small box! That little box contained MULTIPLE gift cards so that we could go shopping for food or gifts or whatever we needed!
I cried. Big huge tears. It was simply amazing! Christmas shopping was suddenly less stressful, and every time I used money from one of those gift cards I was just so grateful to those sweet families who blessed us in this way.

A sweet friend of mine called me one evening to tell me she had received a strange phone call... someone who said they got her number from a mutual friend and wanted her to contact us and be sure someone would be here at a certain time so that they could make a delivery. Not sure what to make of that (and having watched a few too many episodes of NCIS and CSI) I wasn't sure if we SHOULD be here at that time... but considering I was more curious than fearful of certain death... we waited for the mystery to arrive! Somehow the local AAA (yes the auto club) had heard about our family and their office chose us to shower with gifts! They showed up with two cars - both trunks full of wrapped gifts addressed to each of our kids by name - and some for Mom and Dad, too! It was SUCH a shock! The kids all enjoyed the gifts they received, but nothing was as incredible as MY gift (well, it said "family"...) a new 6qt KitchenAid mixer!! My 17-yr old mixer had died earlier this fall! I was so surprised and I have already tested it out on a quadruple batch of muffins and some biscotti! I have NO idea how they got our name, or how they knew that I had been drooling over this mixer for months now... but that was such an amazing gift and something that will be used VERY often!

Another day a local family contacted my husband and said that they had hoped to bring us a meal back when we were first home with the 5, but our meal calendar was filling up and they wondered if that night might work well! What they didn't know is that he had just left town, things were CAH-RAZY around here with school and stuff, and that meal could NOT have had better timing. They brought pizza, salad, cookies and apples AND a gluten-free pizza for me. They also gave us a card with an additional gift inside to use later. 

After Christmas, we were heading up to Pennsylvania to visit with some of our closest friends (Paul had work in the town where we previously lived, so we made it into a family trip!) and after driving through the night and being completely exhausted, we decided to stop at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. We had to wait for a table (something about there being 14 of us? hahaha!) for a bit, but everyone handled the wait very well by playing with the toys in the store area. We sat down, ordered our food, spilled cups of water everywhere three separate times... but three separate people came over to complement us on how well-behaved our children were. When you stand out like we do, those are the absolute sweetest compliments anyone could give! One kind older gentleman walked over to our table, asked if these children all belonged to us and when we said yes, told us how blessed we are and said to Paul "Santa told me to give this to you... Merry Christmas" and handed him money... enough to pay for breakfast!

Twice in December someone dropped off clothes on our porch.

One of my daughters' Sunday School teacher cleaned out her toy room and brought over a ton of Rescue Heroes (which have become an instant favorite), a basketball hoop and some other toys! I was going to save the Rescue Heroes for Christmas, but they saved the day when we had a full day of rain and all these kids stuck inside!

A very close friend received an amazing gift, one that restored her heart from brokenness, and I got to count down the minutes with her and watch it unfold. (sorry to be vague...but it's her story to tell)

A friend "got an AMAZING deal" on a Keurig machine... which she gave to me... because she knows I bleed dark roast arabica.

Another friend handed us cash for the car trip home...because she knew it would help. It bought lunch!

Finally, but certainly the top of my list...
watching my children experience Christmas - several of them for the first time. The joy on their faces and the pure excitement and honest appreciation for every single gift is something that words don't every accurately depict. It was wonderful.

The blessings lavished upon all of humanity in the gift of Jesus, blessings lavished upon my children through the generosity of others... all a picture of that kind of love that gives with no expectation of return, just to bless the recipient.

If you're reading and you were a part of any of this...
 please know how much we appreciate everything. This past month I've felt the presence of the Lord in these gifts, and I've heard him say with each thoughtful gesture from friends and strangers...
"You are never forgotten."