Sunday, November 29, 2009

Conflicted Thankfulness

One year ago today, we took a phone call right as we were ready to leave the house for Bible study and learned that our application had just been accepted that afternoon by All God's Children International . . . our adoption journey had officially begun!

Five months ago today, we met a certain little curly-top in Ethiopia, and what a difference he has made in our life since!

As we reach the end of this Thanksgiving weekend, I have so many different feelings vying for attention in my soul. I feel overwhelmed by thankfulness for so many things - my son, our family and friends, and most of all for Jesus and His faithfulness in our lives. Thanksgiving has always been such a warm, relaxing time for me - surrounded by lots of people that I love and more food than we could possibly need. I still had those things this year, and on top of that, we had the pleasure of introducing our little boy to the last of our immediate family members, (since David's brother and his family were visiting from Georgia) and yet the holiday was bittersweet. For the first time, I actually have close ties to a starving person. I've never met her, but Mihiret is on my mind almost every day. How is she doing? Is she still living? How has life changed for her since June 5th - the last day that she saw Yikealo? Does she think about him every day and wonder how he is, or is life so difficult that just surviving takes everything that she has to give? Does she feel guilty that she was unable to care for her own flesh and blood, or does she feel relieved that he has a chance at life that is far beyond what she could have offered?

Now, take all of those conflicting feelings that I imagine this one woman has and multiply them millions of times over. I feel so much sadness for her - and she is just one of the millions upon millions of hurting people that God loves intimately. There is so much pain and heartache and poverty in this world - so much loss felt by so many people - and God knows each one of them. He knows everything that they feel, everything that they do without, and he knows His plans for them. He loves them so much that He died for them, and wants to claim each soul as His adopted son or daughter. I understand a little of the love that someone can feel for an adopted child - quite frankly, I do not believe that anyone could love a biological child more than I love Yikealo - and yet my love is just a tiny fraction of the love that God has. What level of pain does the Creator feel as He looks down on His hurting children and sees their troubled lives? What does He think when those of us who openly call ourselves His people ignore the plights of our brothers and sisters around the world? Proverbs 24:11 and 12 tells us that we will be held responsible if we do not help those who are near death. We will not be able to make excuses by saying that we did not know, because the same Father who knows the hurting can see into our hearts as well.

So what does thankfulness for God's blessings really mean to me this year? What is He calling me to? What do I do next with the gifts that He has given? I have been convicted lately by a blog that I discovered from a friend's site, and I would encourage you to read the August 26th post at Let God open your eyes further to the sorrow that He feels, and then ask Him how He plans to use you to bring hope to someone else. I am continually amazed at how many layers there are to my selfishness, and it's a painful thing to dig in deeper and learn more about my humanity, but I thank God that He still wants to show me more of Himself, because I am nothing without Him. There is always a part of me that wants to shut down somehow when confronted with the hurts of others, to concentrate on my nice, safe, comfortable life. I am trying to stay open instead ... open to God's heart, open to where He wants me, open to His plans for me, open to the hurt and the pain of the world.

Michael Card says it better than I could in his song "Fellow Prisoners":

I was a prisoner, but you never came,
I was naked, hungry, and so cold,
I was frightened, I was suffering,
But the torment was I suffered all alone.

Remember then the brothers who are suffering.
Remember that your sisters are in pain.
For some of them the sun of hope is setting.
For others it will never rise again.

The chains can't bind the hopefulness,
and the bars can't block the means of grace,
and the distance that might separate
Cannot defeat the prayers that we might suffer in their place.

After all these could be your own children dying.
Your wives and mothers, your husbands and your sons.
We must weep the tears that they are crying,
In prayer we take our stand beside them,
So they won't be alone.

So fellow prisoners, remember, that we may know captivity,
But there's a purpose in the calling
For it is the LORD who sets the prisoners free.

After all, these are your children dying.
They're your wives, your mothers, your husbands and your sons.
We must weep the tears that they are crying.
In prayer we take our stand beside them
So they won't be alone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lots of firsts

Hi again - we're still here, and everything's still going well, but life has just been BUSY lately! Busy enough that I just haven't had time to post for a couple of weeks. We've had some excitement during that time though, so I'll fill all of you in on some of Yikealo's recent "firsts."

Two weeks ago we spent the weekend with my parents again, and Yikealo finally got to ride in the combine with my Dad. Papaw was already pretty special, but now he has definitely achieved a very high status in the eyes of my little boy! Yikealo has not stopped talking about the combine and the corn and the semi since. Nearly every day I hear some variation of: "Please Mom, Papaw's house and then combine tomorrow?" Sorry, cutie pie, but they're all done with the combining for this year! You'll have to wait awhile.

That same weekend brought Yikealo the experiences of his first car accident and his first trip to the ER. We'll blame the accident partially on him: he recently found some photos of a run-in that I had with a bridge back in 2001 and has been asking about it repeatedly. Whenever we were out driving the week after he saw those photos, he would ask, "Please Mom, make car go CRASH! CRASH!" I tried to explain that accidents were not desirable situations, but he wasn't buying it until we had a run-in with a deer while driving my brother's mini-van with three small children in the back. Fortunately, we were all fine, although there was a fair amount of damage to the van.

The trip to the emergency room happened much later that night when Yikealo woke up gasping for breath, and Mom drove us to the hospital where we learned that he had croup. He was fine after a couple of breathing treatments, and he's had no trouble since, but it was a scary thing for this first time Mama! I definitely felt my "protective mother-bear" side rise to the forefront, and refused to let anyone else hold him for awhile - including David. There was just this overwhelming NEED to hold on to my little boy and pray over him, and I kept thinking, "So THIS is what being a mom feels like. I love this child SO much, and I cannot imagine life without him. PLEASE let him be okay!" Once the medication kicked in, he had a good time goofing off with his Grammy while we waited to see the doctor. She was trying to get him to cough, and he wouldn't, so she pulled the old, "You're not allowed to cough anyway. Only Grammy can cough. You'd better not try!" As soon as she told him that he couldn't do something, of course that's exactly what he wanted to do! Reverse psychology works every time with this kid.
This past weekend, Yikealo got to meet his first new friend who was also adopted from Ethiopia. We had the great pleasure of visiting another adoptive family - Blake, Christine and their adorable Alexander - in Chicago, and we had a marvelous time sharing stories and introducing our beautiful boys.

My sister-in-law shared Blake and Christine's blog with us a year ago right after we announced that we were planning to adopt from Ethiopia, and we've been following their journey ever since. Christine graciously answered a number of travel questions for me during a phone call last June, and we've been wanting to meet them for awhile, so when they invited us to Chicago for the weekend, we jumped at the chance. They were wonderful hosts: on Saturday we visited a great children's museum (where among lots of other fun activities Yikealo got to pretend to be a vet, which basically meant giving his poor stuffed animal victim about 25 shots), played at a park along Lake Michigan, and had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant, and by the end of church on Sunday, I think that our boys had hit it off pretty well!

The funny thing is that both boys think that the photos of the other on our respective blogs are photos of themselves, and actually meeting Xander this weekend hasn't changed that for Yikealo. As I was looking at a photo of David holding Xander on our way home last night, Yikealo glanced up at it and asked, "Yikealo, what are do doing?" (his way of asking "what is happening in that picture?") I replied, "Sweetie, that's not you. That's Xander," after which he answered, "Oh. Xander, what are do doing?"

I'm so thankful for the gift of friendship with God's people, and I'm hoping that this will be the beginning of a special forever friendship between our sons!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First Snow!

Yikealo got the pleasure of experiencing his first snowfall today, and my little African boy loved it! David called this morning to say that it was snowing and that we should look outside. I grabbed my camera first, and we headed out for a couple of minutes.

Here's his first glimpse...

He wasn't too sure about it at first, and just kept asking "Menden?" (what is it?)

Okay, I think maybe I'm liking this...

Wow, Mom, look at this!

This is so cool!

I wonder what it tastes like?

That's pretty good!

I think I need to eat more of it...

Yummy! (I think he said this about 50 times!)

Okay, I'd better lick up the snow on my arm too . . . wouldn't want to waste any.