Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Psalm 145

Psalm 145
A psalm of praise. Of David,

"I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will raise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.

They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, 
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
All you have made will praise you, O Lord;
your saints will extol you.
They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made
The Lord upholds all those who fall 
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears the cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever."

David, a man after God's heart.  Boy, I pray that in life I can have a heart like David.  Praying that I can enjoy an intimacy with the Lord that flourishes with resting in the "knowing" of these truths of who he is!  I Love how David praises the Lord for how he is "loving toward all he has made" several times.  Isn't that so true, just like your own Daddy, he wants the very best for you and me!  SO many truths we often forget in the middle of our journey in life, so many times we forget this when we're in the middle of the desert; He hears our cries.  He watches over us.  He lifts up those who have fallen.  He gives to them ...  at the proper time.  He is rich in love, compassionate and gracious.  He is slow to anger.  He is worthy to be praised!  He is faithful to ALL his promises!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Laura Story - Blessings

The Lord gave me this song recently. Our family has been on a great journey for a while. Not just adoption ... that's just one branch, but in total faith dependency each day. We also are walking daily as Doug seeks to follow HIM through running two business's that he started (in the past two years), including "Ground to Cup Coffee". We know God has led us to this place. Every day we ask him to close and open doors. Every day and every month we struggle to see his big picture ... but we KNOW that he continues to push us and this is what he has called him to do. It's been a long journey and some days, I have asked the Lord frankly "when will you bless him"? I don't know if I have ever seen a man work harder and seek him more purely and diligently than my sweet husband.

He reminded me through this song that he may just be blessing us by all the times we have seen him provide, guide, and answer in the small ways. I ask for "blessings" and yet daily he provides for us blessings after blessing. Our adoption is no different. We don't know his timing. We don't know the end of his story. We know he's called us on this journey. But if I have learned one thing about HIM during my first and now second adoption and working within the adoption ministry/community it is this: The Lord wants to be made KNOWN MORE and to KNOW US MORE! That is the blessing!

A new "NAG"

It felt like a harder day than most!  Friday!  For some reason, every Friday my heart races and my stomach is full of knots but this past Friday when the clock hit closing time (for our agency) it felt like I had just had a negative pregnancy test.  Disappointment.  I suppose it's because in my heart I know that it's the last day of the week before an entire long weekend of for sure no news.  But also, from watching the yahoo boards, it seems like referrals often go out on Fridays.  Every Friday my hopes go up just a little.  Every Friday I wonder if maybe, just maybe, that day will be our day.  And, each Friday just keeps getting harder.  Referrals can happen any day of the "work week" ... but Fridays feel the hardest.

We sit in this weird place on the "adoption train" so to speak.  There is an "Unofficial DTE list" on our yahoo that someone on our groups keeps.  It's a list of each family by the day they were DTE (the day their paperwork went to Ethiopia), what their age request is, gender, multiple children etc.  They also have the "on deck" families listed and numbered ... you know, the ones that America World says is anywhere between 1-3 months from getting a referral.   The ones who can "Expect" to be SOON.

We're not on that list ... and will probably never will be.  There's a "2" by our name ... but we still aren't a "top 10".

Why?  Well ...

We're seeking an "older" child.  With that, they tell us their is "no trend history" for referral on older children.  On one of the conference calls they said that those seeking an older child would probably never receive that "on deck" e-mail because well, they don't know when that referral might come.  The wait at the time of that conference call for an infant boy (we are seeking a boy age 3-5) was 4-6 months.  They followed up by saying that "those seeking an older child would be shorter than an infant boy".  That's all they could GUESS ... because, well, really that's all one can do ... GUESS when their is no "trend history".

Why not a trend history?  Well, frankly, because their has to be more "in line" seeking that age to create a "Trend".   Looking down the "List", we are one of the only families seeking a child who is a boy in our age range.

So, here we are, almost 4 months since are paperwork got there.  Just before I left for Ethiopia, my sweet family coordinator who has since moved away did say that their were "very few, if any, families in front of us for a child in our age/gender request".  She followed up by saying "you know what that means in international adoption ... it could be a week or a month".  That was a month and half ago.  Of course, that was also prior to the whole MOWA fiasco slowdown.  A further confusion to the "trend".  Unknown timelines for all parts of this process were further created.

On our yahoo group they do this awesome thing that shows the "NAG" - needs at a glance".  They post families in different stages of the process so people know how to pray.  "top 10 on deck families", "waiting on court", waiting on embassy", "just received referral" etc.  You get the picture.  We also have an awesome community that prays.  I love this part.  It is why I have always loved my agency ... awesome praying and believing families.  So this week, someone sent out the "NAG" and asked if we would pray for each family in those different stages "by name" and then listed them this Sunday night.  I am so honored to do that!

Then I thought ... hmmm, I think their needs to be one more "NEED".  How about the "NAG" for the families that say "Clueless"?  That's us.

Every day someone asks when we'll know.  Every day I wake up and wonder "is today our day"?  Every day my kids go off to school and pray that the announcement will buzz in their classroom and they'll be called to the office because we have promised that we WILL NOT look at Levi's pictures without them.  Every day could be our day.  Every day gets harder.  Man, oh man, do I also have a NEED!

So, I'm praying tonight for all those needs.  BUT, I've added my own column and jotted down a few family names that I see seeking older children.  I have them under the "clueless" or "only God knows" column because if they are anything like me.  They are feeling CLUELESS!  I think after walking this now 2 times (in China you can follow what days China has matched and KNOW if your coming up),  being totally in the "Unknown" is as hard as the journey itself.

I suppose that's why the Lord called me a second time ... and this time ... to a journey that I really cannot have any control over.  He knows my real NEED ... LETTING GO!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Holding on to the faces of HOPE!

We received an update last week on the situation that looms in Ethiopia on the future of adoptions.  We have been in prayer since the original statement was made by MOWA that they would be decreasing the number of adoptions by 90%.  My heart was heavy and my burden felt huge ... especially coming off of a two week trip of being there, loving on children who needed a Mommy and Daddy.  I heard the news and while my heart sank into my stomach about what it would mean for our "story of Levi", I sobbed big ol' fat tears for some precious kids who stole my heart and whose hope rests that one day they will have a family.  Opinions swirled about the possibilities and reasons, but my heart would just take me back to this!  The faces of HOPE!  Here's are a few of those faces.  It's not quite as easy to dismiss the possibility or sit idly by when the % becomes a child, with a name, with a face, with a story that you have come to know.  These are just a few that keep me waking up each night and getting on my knees to pray.  They are worth every prayer!

BUT ... in the two weeks since, the Lord and I have had some AWESOME prayer time.  Read the post below about our nightly "date" and then let me add something fun.  So, after a week of 3:23 wake ups, I was startled one night to awake at 4:05.  WHAT?  Something just wasn't right.  I did though what I had done on all other nights ... prayed, chatted, and just sat with the Lord.  I didn't think too much about the time, though I do remember being a little sad that my 3:00 hour no longer meant the noon hour in Ethiopia.  Maybe it was just a number "3".
The next day as I was getting ready, something dawned on me.  We had "Sprung forward" in our time change and in fact, that 4:05 would have been a 3:05 the week earlier.  Silly I know ... but it dawned on me and made me giggle a little.  I then posted something about my new "wake" time with the Lord to discover from friends that NOPE ... Ethiopia doesn't change their clocks and yes, 4:05 was still the noon hour in Ethiopia.  Yep, my God had all those details again ... down to changing the time he awakened me.  Now my biggest question is, what in the world goes on at the noon hour in Ethiopia?  Only He knows ... but apparently, it's prayer worthy.

Later in the week we did get some great news.  This e-mail came from my family coordinator on Thursday.  While nothing is concrete, it seems as though those prayers are working ... so keep them coming!  Levi, I don't know how this story will end or what day you will be in our arms.  After hearing the original news I put a hold on "creating your room".  I decided to hold on to some furniture I was going to give away and keep a TV in there and make it into the kids little playroom (since we just converted the playroom to your sister's bedroom).  That was the plan until Today (3/19/11), when your Daddy decided that keeping that furniture was throwing in the towel on our dreams of you.  SO, with that, I'll be getting to work soon on making a room and preparing it just for you!  It makes me think about how the Lord tells us that he too is preparing a place for us.  While you can't see it, we are ... and we can't wait for your arrival, whatever day that might be ... we'll WAIT!

We are writing to update you on the current situation in Ethiopia.  While meetings between Ethiopian government officials continue, we have seen positive steps.  Within MOWA, there have been significant and positive personnel changes which have resulted in overall staff turnover and changes in the adoption unit.  This unit is now called the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA).  We are hopeful and expectant that the new leadership will not only support processing an adequate number of favorable recommendation letters, but also implement policies that will best serve the children.  Due to the staffing changes, we anticipate much transition over the next few weeks.  However, we expect that once everyone is settled into their new positions, MOWCYA will work to process a higher number of recommendation letters than they currently are able to process.  

We have continued to receive optimistic feedback and have seen how the Ethiopian government is very committed to adoption.  I hope this information is an encouragement to your family.  We will continue to update your family with any confirmed information we receive. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's just a number ... THREE ... or is it?

On March 10th, somewhere in Ethiopia, a new rule went into effect by MOWA (Ministry of Woman's Affairs).  This is the agency that writes each letter of recommendation needed for families and children to pass court ... and be woven together legally as a family!  They have stated they would be writing far less letters and since the announcement a week or so prior, we have all been on our knees in prayer!

When I first got the news, we put together a prayer calendar and asked that each working hour in Ethiopia would be filled with someone here praying.  Meetings would be taking place that would impact the future of many children's lives.  Because so many hours were during our night,
I asked the Lord to awaken me when he needed me to pray ... Ethiopia is working when we are sleeping and I knew this was the critical hours.  How could I pick?

What time has he awakened me each night?  3:23!

Two nights ago the craziest thing happened.  He awoke me again at 3:23 and as I sat straight up in my bed I was being summoned to pray.  So pray I did!  I fell back to sleep shortly later only was disrupted again.  As I looked at the clock it was STILL 3:23.  So, being summoned a second time, I prayed again.  I fell back to sleep and shortly later I was awakened AGAIN!  What time was it?  3:23!  I didn't ask or question what was going on in my sleepy eyed state, but I remember thinking how odd this was.  Was time standing still?
Ever seen the movie Ground Hog day?  That was my night.  Every time I went to "sleep", I was awakened at 3:23, summoned to pray and then I prayed.  Over and Over and Over and Over and Over!

When I finally awoke in the morning I was confused!  Then, as I sat processing the night it dawned on me (or maybe the Lord spoke to me).  The first time I awoke it was indeed 3:23.  He summoned and I prayed.  When I fell back to sleep ... he didn't "wake" me again into a literal wake state.  No, all night long, like the movie "Ground hog day", he replayed the first time in my head, in my dreams!.  BUT ... just as sure as I was "awake" each time  ... I was praying ... in my sleep ... in my dreams he had me praying!
Does that make sense?  In my dreams, he was awakening me at 3:23 and was calling me to pray.  So I did.  I prayed ... again, and again and again.  Only each time, it was 3:23 on that clock.

As I shared this on my yahoo group with the ladies I just wanted to share that the Lord was waking me to pray at 3:23.  That time in the morning here is 12:23 in the afternoon in Ethiopia.
To my surprise, the board began to to be lit up with these responses:

"I woke up at 3:35 and was awake for about an hour to pray"
"I have been waking up at the EXACT time (not kidding) every morning this week"
"Ladies ... I too have been woken up between 3:30 and 4:20 every day since we received our referral"
"CRAZY!  Or should I say DIVINE!  God has been awakening me between 2 and 3 NIGHTLY this week"
"So cool to see God working.  Apparently my designated prayer time is 4:00am Eastern Time.  (I'll add, Yes, that is 3:00 am Central time) to pray".

Some may call that all a coincidence, but I do believe God has called us when and how to pray.  Apparently, the 3:00 o'clock hour (12:00 pm hour in Ethiopia) is an important one!

March 10th also marked the THREE month wait for our referral.  Today, I decided to google the meaning of the number "3".  This is what I found ... seriously .... I think I love the number THREE!

Three, therefore, stands for that which is solid, real, substantial, complete, and entire.
All things that are specially complete are stamped with this number three.
God's attributes are three: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence - seriously my favorite!
There are three great divisions completing time--past, present, and future.

SO, Lord, I'll meet you again tonight ... at 3:23!  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

and only when necessary, use words.

As I continue to reflect and think about the two weeks I spent in Ethiopia, I find myself wishing I could just find the words and the pictures to capture what I saw and felt so I could share it with you!  If only I  could have bottled the smiles, the embraces and the exchanges of true and unhindered joy and brought it home with me.  Each day the Lord brings something new to my mind as I reflect.  Today it was the simplicity of the unspoken words.

A few days into our journey we had the blessing of spending a day doing a shoe distribution.  When we arrived in the community, the leaders were hesitant of who we were and quickly the communities leaders gathered to discuss us - would we be able to continue?   Apparently, 30 white people showing up in a rural community to deliver bright yellow shoes doesn't happen everyday.

While they discussed, we hung out with the kids which quickly became a game of giggles and discovery.  There were a group of girls who were simply tickled by us.  As we worked to use our best "Aromo" - the language of this region, we realized that our words were not needed because we were quite amusing.  These girls were simply tickled by our presence ... a group of white people who were trying to communicate with their "words" ... and TRY I emphasize.   While they giggled and appeared to be happy with the strangers who had appeared on their school grounds, they also were not quite sure yet if they could trust us.  If we got too close or tried to touch them, most would quickly duck away and then just, well, GIGGLE.  I can't even put the exchange into a word picture, however, it was the most precious sound.

Not long after meetings transpired we got the official word that we could proceed with the distribution.
This lasted ALL day.  One by one, from the littlest foot to the biggest foot, we fitted a school full of children and some members of the community with shoes.  Over 1,000 feet came through the doors of a small school house.  Over a 1,000 faces left with the new hope of a brand new pair of shoes.   Some of our team were honored to walk a blind man into the room and fit him with shoes.  Some met mother's with crying babies at the door who didn't understand who we were and screamed in fear.  Some sat on the floor  and sized each foot.  Some ran and ran getting shoes while the "sizer" played the estimation game.  Some escorted the newest shoe owners to "register" their new shoes and some just simply were the smile at the door to welcome them in.  Team work!  It took every one of us!

But it wasn't just about shoes ...

At one point, as I stood outside  a very elderly man began to pass by me.  As I extended my hand to help him get through the crowd, I looked down and noticed his bright yellow feet.  It wasn't the shoes though that tipped me off that he was the benefactor of a new blessing but the look in his eyes as he approached.  Placing his hands on my face we looked into each others eyes but spoke no words.  ... a tear ran down his cheeks and I embraced his neck.  I don't know that I have ever felt such gracious humility and appreciation.  No words and yet the Thank you was deafening.

Each of us on the team shared in different roles throughout the day.  At the days end I found myself being the one who would write a number on the newly "Registered" shoe and through hand gestures try to help them understand that in the coming summer their would be a second opportunity for shoes so they would need to return.  As each precious face came by we began to write a heart in a permanent market on their hand, kiss them on their hand or cheek and tell them they were "conjo" ... beautiful!  It wasn't something we were "told" to do but something that we just did when we noticed that little gesture would brighten their eyes and make them full of smiles.

On a few occasions my "line" would get backed up.  A person might get by me without that special heart,  BUT ... it wouldn't be long and they would be back.  After surveying the scene, they would soon notice they were missing something.  The mark of a "stolen heart".
I was so taken back by the joy that those few gestures brought.  I'm not talking about in just the little kids ... I'm talking about in people young and old ... teenage boys, and grandma's .  Young men and teenage boys would wait patiently for their "love" mark.  As I wrote the heart on their hand they would grin and then as I kissed their hand, caressed their face and smiled in their eyes something would happen.  Without any "aromo" words exchanged, they'd know they were precious and adored ... and something would change in their spirit.  A light would seem to go off in the room.  Indeed, the light of their smiles.

Ethiopia taught me many things and their were so many things I enjoyed but I think one of the most incredible and unforgettable ones was how the simplest gesture meant the world to someone and how often, that exchange came without a single word.
I may have been marking their hands with a heart and telling them how much they were adored, however, little did they know that they too were leaving a print on me ...  their fingerprints on my heart!

A great reminder

In light of the debates and news of Ethiopia, the Lord uses music to remind me that HE loves our Levi more than I do! He has showed us, those whom have called on his name according to his purpose, that HE knows the timing of our adoption ... both literally and spiritually. Watch the video all the way through and rejoice with me that the Lord who created the heavens and earth and set the stars in motion is the one whose decision will be heard in the end. It's a good one.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Everyone has an opinion ...

Shock rang out on Friday when an article began to circulate that Ethiopia planned to cut adoptions by 90%.  Despair and fear plagued the hearts of many families within my own agency (and yes, admittedly myself) when an e-mail arrived at 4:45 that afternoon asking us to pray as MOWA was desiring to write less letters of recommendations for families during the process (bringing an unheard of slow down).   And with both of those revelations came something fleshly ... opinions ... many of them!

I have been amazed at the number of "opinions" I have read or seen posted on Facebook and other sources with the onset of this possible news.  The number of people who have flippantly created and formed an "opinion" without understanding or knowing the impact of their words.  The number of people who have worked to dissect and give answer to the why's, how's and what if's, dismissing those whose lives are woven into each remark or assumption.
As I sit and read each post, blog or update, I find myself wondering if the enemy is winning.  If it is true, that Lord doesn't work in fear and doubt ... then have we given room with each "examination" of the "problem" for the enemy to gain ground?  Have we used our time to give him credit instead of praying without ceasing and trusting that the Lord is bigger?  No doubt, the enemy wants nothing more to put division in the body and to hold captive the orphan.  Have our words been used as ammunition to his plan?  Have we wasted precious time arguing over "what is right" instead of asking for HS will?

My stomach has turned into knots as people have called International Adoption the act of "Rich white people".  My heart has grieved as I have seen some place numbers on the head of my daughter ... and the child I long to know.  I dare any of you to tell my daughter that the resources spent to bring her home would have been far more "useful" to build a permanency center or to build a care center where "many could be fed".  Didn't the Lord go after the one lost sheep?

If I believe in God's word then I believe what he tells me in Psalm 139.  I believe that he knows each of our days before one of them came to be and that means I believe that each child that he places into a home through adoption was DESTINED to be there!  If I believe that the Lord speaks to me, then I also have to trust when I hear his voice.  Those that have questioned if International Adoption is the "Right thing" has questioned the very voice and calling of the one who called me or any family into this journey!  I haven't yet met a family who have stepped their toe in lightly to the world of adoption.  On the contrary, it is the most prayerful community I have been privileged to take part in!  I cannot imagine walking this road without Faith!

Do I believe that a child who isn't truly orphaned should be adopted?  No way!  Am I blind that there are those in this world that are corrupt and those who seek financial gain from a system?  No, I'm not blind.  But I also don't believe that shutting down a program without seeking a resolution is the answer.  I don't believe that calling International Adoption the "last resort" is justified.
God showed me his heart for adoption before we ever took a breathe.  Esther was adopted, Moses was adopted, Jesus was adopted.  If you've trusted in his name, YOU were adopted!  He showed me it was indeed a "plan A" for some of the chosen a long time ago!

Do I believe that adoption is the only answer?  Absolutely not!  I believe in a holistic approach to caring for the orphan.  I believe we should visit them!  I believe we should use our financial resources to sponsor them and to support the work of agencies and ministries who are bringing resolution to the heart of the problem ... the family who can't care for them.

I do not know the future of adoptions in Ethiopia.  Oh how I wish I did!  I do not know the end of this story ... but I know the one who does!  SO, instead of validating "opinions" or arguing over "solutions", I humbly ask that each of you would do one thing; pray!  Pray blessings over the officials of MOWA ... I can imagine that their job brings much room for spiritual warfare!  Pray favor and honor over the court and judges who sees and hears each child's case.  Pray discernment over those who get to make the decisions that will impact the lives of thousands.  Pray peace over the families who await their answers.  Pray HOPE over the children who deserve a family.  Pray abundance over the ministries who work tirelessly on behalf of the entire crisis.  Pray resources over the staff who write those letters.  Pray truth and light over any corruption .. and rid it quickly!  Pray Pray Pray and when you think he's heard your prayers ... pray again!  I trust he delights in your prayers and delights in hearing the word "orphan" brought into his throne room!

1 Chronicles 5:20 "They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them because they CRIED OUT to him during the battle.  He answered their prayers, because they TRUSTED HIM".  

Monday, March 7, 2011

His MERCY endures forever!

"Will you pray" we heard her say.  Standing in the middle of the streets of Korah, a beautiful woman approached and petitioned us to her home.  My team leader looking around grabbed one of our guides and the few of us at arms length and off we went to pray.  We didn't know what we were getting into.  All we knew was it was a daughter ... and she was not well.  All we knew was that in FAITH a mother believed in the power of prayer and had petitioned 5 foreign woman to join her in the throne room on her daughter's behalf.  Who could say "no"?

Walking into a small room, there laid a beautiful young woman.  Weak from whatever plagued her she laid still too weak to move.  We had no clue what plagued her, was it TB, AIDS, cancer, heart conditions ... only God knows.  Her mother showed us a CT scan of her brain but spoke of weakness in her heart.  We were all confused what it was that plagued her, but truly, the details of her illness didn't matter to any of us.  We weren't doctors there to heal in our flesh.  We were there to pray and let the one great physician who did know all the details, heal! .

We prayed.  We laid hands on a beautiful woman and prayed.  As we did, I clearly heard the Lord say to "Sing over her".  Prior to my leaving the States a God fearing friend had felt the Lord tell her that we were to pray in the streets of Korah.  That praise would be the breakthrough for the land of Ethiopia.  She had sent me a lengthy text of what the Lord had shared but in a nutshell ... we were called to sing songs of praise ... specifically in Korah.  And so, in a small room I heard him say "Sing" and
Sing we did!  "Healer" by Kari Jobe sprung from our lips.  The beautiful Mom sobbed and wept into the arms of a friend of mine who stood at her side.  The beautiful Mom cried out "Ze akah" (a great and bitter cry) for the healing of her daughter.  It was a heart wrenching moment.  It was a true honor!

A few hours passed and as we sat amongst the children, my team leader summoned me across the street.  "You have to come" she said.  Grabbing my arm she led us across the street and there, to my disbelief,  sat a beautiful and a very ALIVE familiar young woman.  The same young woman whom we prayed over now sat with her mother outside the shelter of Korah.  Through the tears one of our Ethiopian friends, he translated her story ... a story of healing and a story of Mercy.  A story of a death four years prior of this same girl.  Through translation we learned that she had died ... for hours ... and when the community was working to arrange for her burial, this same mother had prayed her to life.  Since that day, she had been sick.  But today, he had completely healed her body and in one more step of faith, a mother had petitioned one more prayer on her behalf!  Today, in the middle of a small run down room with 5 unknowing woman, he healed her and we got to watch him do it!

That beautiful girl's name is MERCY!  How prophetic is her name.  Indeed, his mercy reigns in the streets of Korah and reigned over the life of a beautiful 15 year old girl!

Mercy sits with us, very alive!
The next day, Mercy even went to school!
Mercy's beautiful mother.  A woman of Faith.  I had brought these boots on the trip with hopes of leaving them for the people of Korah.  I am blessed to know that now, Mercy and her Mom have a little piece of our family always.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unpacking it all

I just returned from 12 amazing and wonderful days in Ethiopia.  I got home late on Sunday night after 37 hours of traveling with NO sleep!  To say home felt good is an understatement!  To flush my toilet, brush my teeth in running water and to eat fruit was a blessing ... and yet, how quickly I would eagerly return to a place without those luxuries is crazy!

The past two days I have been walking around in a fog.  I feel like I am stuck between two worlds and unable to grab on to either.  I have gone from being numb, to crying over the littlest things, to being numb again.  Trying to unpack ... both literally and what sits in my heart seems to be an impossible task.  How do I do life knowing what I know now?   How do I do life now being responsible for what I have seen?

I left here not knowing one person on my team.  Yes, I had made connections through face book but as my team leader would say "I was going afraid".  Heading off to a country I had never been to with 30 people I didn't know seemed daunting.  I knew the Lord was calling me though to this trip .. I mean, he did complete every portion needed to assure I was a part of the team.  There was no doubt in my mind that this was my time.  "Such a time is this" ... little did I know!  
I arrived in Washington as sick as a dog.  Bronchitis and a sinus infection left me lifeless.  We spent the night there before boarding our plane the next morning for Ethiopia.  I secluded myself to my room and cried ... I felt awful, yearned for home and for my family!  But, he had so much more in store.  How quickly 30 strangers became my family is a testimony of God's love.
I left alone and came home with a family I miss terribly!  I left scared to death and yet boarded a plane back home full of tears and with the worst ache in my stomach and heart as I said good bye to sisters and brothers I cherished.    They got what I felt and feel.  They understand it, have experienced it and yearn for the very thing I yearn for.  We are forever connected!

I hope to spend the next couple of posts trying to capture a little bit of what I saw, experienced and felt during my 12 days there.  I know one day that I will want to share with Levi what I learned about the country that he was born into.  Oh how I yearn for him to know and love it the way I do!  Truly, Ethiopia is the most beautiful place I have ever been ... only at first glance you may question it's beauty as from the naked eye, it wouldn't necessarily appear to be so.  Look deeper though, the beauty lies in the people.  How precious is each smile and face!  The heartbeat and pulse of it's existence!  How do I put into words the most amazing people I have ever met?  

It's funny, one sets out on a mission trip thinking that we are bringing so much to them.  We set out thinking that we get to serve the "least of these".  How quickly the Lord showed me the contrary.  It takes me back to the scripture where he says "The first shall be last".  Oh how true that scripture feels.  Here, we have abundance and live comfortably and yet in the 12 days I was away, I learned how little we truly have.   I come home and realize how much joy, contentment and abundance we really lack.
I left a country that had everything this world would ask for to serve in a country that this word says has nothing.  I came home realizing that Ethiopia is the country who is rich; rich in love, relationship, joy and contentment.  Rich in HIS presence.   Africa may just be the closest thing to the Kingdom this side of heaven.  I felt him, I heard him, I touched him, I saw him!
Jesus tells us in Matthew that "whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me".  Oh my how that scripture has new life in my heart.  He walks the streets freely in Ethiopia.  He heals, he loves, he embraces!  He is not hindered by anything or anyone.

As I walked the streets of Korah, I learned what Joy and Life truly looks like!  As I loved on children who dug from a trash pile to eat, I saw what abundance looked like.  As I prayed over a dying girl and then watched her walk to our side a few hours later, I saw what healing is!  As I fit the feet of over 1,000 people with new shoes, I saw what appreciation, joy and hope looks like.
How do I put each experience into words?  How do I ever give one that has never been a true picture of it's reality.  I think it's impossible and yet I yearn for each of you to know, feel, see, smell and touch what I have experienced.  It is abundance!  It is LIFE!

Ethiopia stole a piece of my heart.  With each embrace, each kiss and each smile, a part of me went with it.    I am forever changed!  I am forever burdened!  I am forever broken!   I am responsible!

As I process, I will share some pictures of our time.  I know you will enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them so be patient with me and stay tuned ... there is much to come as the Lord allows me to unpack each moment into words and pictures.

Levi, you are out there.  I saw you in many children's faces.  I saw your smile amongst the crowd. I felt your hand, I felt your touch and I saw your LIFE!  Now that i have seen ... I cannot wait to KNOW who you are!
© Lead us to Levi

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