Sunday, December 23, 2012

My life collides with "Their Story"

It's not drawn from passion.  It's not drawn out of obedience.  It's not drawn from an emotional need.  No, the drive behind our family "Sharing their Story" is that "their story" suddenly collided into our lives and became, on February 5, 2012, a part of "Our Story" .

In July of 2011, we set out to take on the role of "CarePoint Sponsorship Coordinator's" for Warancha CarePoint.  We believed in the ministry behind Children's HopeChest and believed it would be an awesome way to knit us back into the fabric of the country we longingly awaited our own son's arrival from.  We had a dream - but little did we know, he had a PLAN!

Just one month after our big launch, we received the long awaited call we had waited for.  We had a 3.5 year old son!  Upon receiving his paperwork, we began to see the first bread crumbs of a confirmation that Awassa, Ethiopia (Warancha's home) wasn't just 'our choice" but His.  Birth place of Zebene Martine - Awassa, Ethiopia.

We went through the process of Court travel, Court and Embassy Clearance and on February 5, 2012, we became Forever "ours"!  During that embassy trip we were blessed with the greatest gift we would ever receive - the opportunity of meeting the beautiful woman who was giving us the gift of Zebene.

How do you prepare for such an event?  I had for years dreamt of that moment for our daughter from China.  For 5 years we prayed nightly for a woman we'd never know.  We had only dreamed what it would be like to understand the "Why's" and to say "thank you" for her great sacrifice.  I dreamed of telling her how brave she was, wondered what she looked like, and of learning a story I'd never really know.  I envisioned what it would be like to look in her eyes and let her know that she was loved.  And now, 5 years later - I was having that chance with Zebene's mother.

Our day came and I was a nervous wreck.  I had prepared a photo album and a letter - such small tokens in exchange for her unimaginable sacrifice.  Without sharing Zebene's story and the heart wrenching cards that had been dealt to the hand of his mother, it would be suffice to say that I had one goal from our meeting - MiMi would know she was adored, beautiful and the daughter of the King of Kings.   As we sat across the table, I watched her as her adoring eyes took her beautiful son in.  She greeted him with an affectionate embrace and as we talked, her gaze seldom left his face.  It was very clear that she loved her son dearly, affectionately sharing sweet memories and stories of his personality and tender moments as a baby and young toddler.  She shared her last moments with Z, as she left him in the orphanage at 2.5 years old, sharing with us the last thing she told him  "Please never forget me, Please never forget me".  As she conveyed her dreams, her story and her great loss to us, I was overcome in emotion.

Life was not fair.  My son was simply an orphan because of poverty.  A young mother, against all odds and the desires of her family, had chosen life for him.  She had chosen with the whole world against her to keep her son and do whatever it took to raise him.  She had given him every chance she could and yet - life. had. failed. her.  As we sat at that table and as we shared in those moments - my grief and one reality overwhelmed me.  Zebene, our gift, was ours only because we had "much" and his mother had "too little".

As MiMi walked away from that meeting, I held OUR beautiful boy on my hips.  Turning to Job, our guide, I began to sob.  Nothing about that moment felt right.  This - this card that life had dealt this beautiful woman, was not right.  Her loss would never be my "gain".  A truth that would forever be etched on my heart.

But, as we know, the Lord always is the perfect author of our stories.  Our relationship with Zebene's mother has continued.  On Doug's most recent trip into visit our kids at the Warancha CarePoint in Awassa, Ethiopia, he had the awesome and beautiful opportunity to see MiMi again.  Meeting up at the orphanage that she had left Zebene in, he learned one more amazing piece to our story he was penning.  Shilom Children's Hope is only miles from Warancha CarePoint!   The reality sinking in further - Warancha could have been her answer!

For over 300 plus children that are a part of the Warancha community, the same fate is only a meal - a day away.  The truth is, our sponsorships and that CarePoint is the lifeline and the breaking point between one more young mother, one more desperate family having to gut wrenchingly choose the same sacrifice for their child.  Warancha is orphan care at it's best - allowing those with "much" to keep those with "too little" together as a family!

  Those moments, at that table, in a small guest house propel me forward to continue to Share Their Stories.   My prayer is that their stories collision into your life would result in not a loss of a family - but the HOPE of a future!  Perhaps this Christmas, we really can "Change Their Story".

Here's How you can get involved and become a Story CHANGER!

Sponsor a child today (34$/month)!

Give the Gift of Nutrition this Christmas!

Our first moments

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Baby's First Christmas - and other notable firsts.

Still so many firsts!  As we turn the bend of 10 months home and soon celebrate the close of 2012, we continue to embark on the confusion, the joy and the bazillions of questions that come with a very curious 4.5 year old little boy learning all about "Mericut".  I have gotten so busy with life - and laundry (and taxi cab driving) with 4 crazy kids, that I have failed miserably to note some of the sweetest, some of the craziest and some of the most monumental times.  Maybe over the holidays I will get a chance to play some catch up.  Until then, might this bide some time.

August we moved into our new home.  Z has loved the discovery of the wild life we see out our windows.  He also loves riding his bike in the circle drive, sitting on the front porch in the rocking chair and learning to climb the trees.  We are loving the quiet hill country life, meeting new people and becoming "old" in our young age.  I for one have taken on a new love of humming bird watching and am already ready for the spring to come so my little friends will embark again at the feeder out my kitchen window.  We have seen fox, HUGE buck, doe's, roadrunner's and even an Audad.  Each day is a new discovery - and I am good with all those creatures above - just leave the sneaky snakes waaaay out back!

Seriously - this guy was less than 10 feet from me.  Good morning, Sunshine!

The end of August, the big kids started school.  Each year we begin our year with a Back to school "Celebration Dinner".  I pick a scripture for the year and place it as a name card in front of each seat.  We write down the kids teacher's names and pray for them by name.  I always use our good China and try to make it as special as possible.  Last year, we set a place for our little guy.  A promise that soon he'd fill that seat.  It was extra special that the Lord delivered that promise to us!  One year later - almost to the day we first saw his face - he was joining our celebration!
Last year's name card.  Indeed, we came for you, Zebene Levi Martine

September we embarked on our first real family "vacation"with Zebene.  We spent the 4 day labor day weekend (a yearly tradition) at Laity Lodge Family Camp.  Z got to sleep in a bunk bed (bottom bunk) in the same room with his whole family.  We quickly learned he is a noisy sleeper and by night two were all looking for our ear plugs.  He also got to play in a river, ride in a canoe and slip on the slippy slide.  It's an adventure we share each year with my in-laws and Doug's Sister's family who includes 6 kids.  Needless to say, it's full of energy and fun!

 Halloween was a muse.  I mean, really, I put on this crazy costume - knock on people's doors and they give me candy?  And yes, this kid still thinks any day can be Halloween.  I'm pretty sure he has decided that "Mericut Halloween" is a keeper holiday!

Of course, October also was the month our Daddy was away in Ethiopia visiting our kids at the Warancha CarePoint.  It was my first time with all 4 kids for that long alone (two weeks).  My folks were out of town and we had a gazillion activities going on.  I would wait each day for a skype call from Doug around 1:30 in the afternoon  - depending on the internet, some days it would work and some days it wouldn't.  It was literally those calls and sporadic text messages that got me through.  2 weeks felt like a lifetime and I realized that life is FAR more fun with my honey around.  Each day, Z would join the call from my lap and he was certain that Daddy was inside the computer.    
Some of the eyes that have stolen our hearts in Awassa, Ethiopia (Warancha CarePoint)

Doug praying over the kids at Warancha
There's Daddy in the computer.

Also, while in Ethiopia, Doug was able to see Mama MiMi (Z's birthmom) again.  We told her 8 months ago that we would return to see her.  I don't think she really believed us the first time.  The director of the orphanage that Z is from (and where they met up) said that in the history of adoptions - we were the FIRST family to ever come back after the adoption and visit the birth family.  I sent a photo album we put together of Z's first months and a picture he colored for her.  At first MiMi  seemed shy and almost shameful when they met.  As soon as Doug brought out the photo album and began showing her Z's photos, she began to cry.  At one point, she took the pictures and kissed each of them one at a time.  Doug said she loved hearing about his fun personality and Alex, the awesome HopeChest guide read/translated the letter I sent her.  By the end of the few hours together, she was all smiles and this time when Doug left and said we'd see her again soon ... she knew we meant it!  She is treasured and adored ... and I think she finally believes us when we say so!  I also believes she finally knows that I meant what I said upon our first meeting, "I am simply her hands caring for a son she loved so dearly.  I am not ever going to replace her - and she will always be treasured in our home".  In the photo album I had put on the last page a picture of the bookshelf in our living room that has a beautiful canvas of her face.  Doug said when she saw that photo, she was overcome in emotion.  Indeed, Mimi, you are always with us and very much a part of our home.
*For the privacy of MiMi and Z, I have and will always remain from showing photos of her beautiful face.  She has a smile that would light up these pages.
The picture Z made for his Momma.  I love that he wrote his name so beautifully!  She must have been proud.

Alex reading her my letter
November brought another first and milestone moment for Z.  He had his first hair cut.  Upon calling to book his appointment with a person a friend of mine had referred me to (a africa-american man who would surely not mess up my boy's girls), Mr. Bill asked me (after me asking him a few questions) "are you a white momma"?  I had to laugh.  In the end, he did an awesome job and this "White Momma" is THRILLED that I finally have someone to cut my little Ethiopian's precious locks.

His curls all brushed out were HUGE!  Can you say rockin' afro!

Awe, your so handsome!
November also brought our first Thanksgiving.  I was so Thankful this year that I forgot to take photos!  I got one of the kids before we left for our Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Betty's.

And now we are about to embark on our First Christmas!  Z is totally confused about Christmas.  Upon seeing a lit up tree inside Costco (from afar), he asked me "why tree inside - on fire"?   The hardest part of Christmas so far has been the night we decorated the tree.  As the big kids began to find all their ornaments from year's past that they made, the ones where we put in their photos, baby's first Christmas etc., Z asked "Where go my"?  The kids right away told him that "This is your first Christmas" with great excitement, however, I don't think he gets that.  The reality is, at 10 months home - I honestly don't think he even remembers much of Ethiopia and that he was once not here.  I know that is wild ... but so true.  Though he talks of "my Afreekuh", the reality is - he has little recollection and to Z - we are his home (which we love!)  I quickly began to look for the one Africa ornament I had made for him and the one Granny had gotten him this year.  And of course, all those 'unclaimed" random ornaments quickly became Zebene's.  He was as happy as a lark and tree decorating commenced.  And well - appropriately, this year Z got the honor of hanging the first one.

At the end of the night, he also partook in his first hot coco surprise followed by the annual watching of "Charlie Brown Christmas"!  He loved it!

So now here we sit, 3 days before Christmas.   My kids have settled in for the night, my peanut butter balls are complete, the presents all bought (but not yet wrapped).  Looking back on my blog, I realize how much of this crazy year I didn't get the chance to document.  I have photos upon photos, memories upon memories and the most hilarious things that this little boy has said that has never made it to the pages I hoped to fill- much like what happened to the other kids "baby books".  But alas, each of them are sewed into the fabric of my heart and as we get ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus ... I am one lucky Mama that he birthed into our family another precious little boy this year!  Zebene, Merry Christmas little guy!  And yes, their are "prizes under that tree for you too - AND - your very own ornament that says, "Baby's first Christmas - 2012"!

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