Would you STOP what you are doing right now and join me in prayer? A sweet, fellow adoptive family, The Reeds, just returned home from Ethiopia with their precious baby girl. Tulio and I had the honor of being one of the many families who prayed over and photographed their baby, Maura, while we were in Ethiopia getting Berhanesh. Erica, Jason and Maura returned on Saturday and immediately took Maura to Vanderbilt Hospital. She is very sick. This morning, a heart cath and biopsy are scheduled.
My heart is heavy. BUT, our faith is not in doctors but in the GREAT PHYSICIAN! Would you stand in agreement with me for this family?
Please pass this on to your churches and prayer chains!
Here are some of my favorite people that I am Thankful for! We had a great time during the Thanksgiving holiday. The turkey was great and the company was even better.
Love these girls! First Thanksgiving dinner!
Tree is up, lights are strung and presents are wrapped in anticipation of a wonderful Christmas soon approaching!
What a special photo! This is the ornament I made last year as we waited for our child to come home from Ethiopia! It reads "waiting in love." When Abby found it in the ornament boxes, I nearly lost it! She's home! Thank you Jesus for your goodness! First ornament hung! We are thrilled to be able to share all of our holiday joy with Berhanesh! Above all, we are reminded of where she was a year ago today. Unthinkable, really! We are lucky and honored to be a part of her life!
As Christmas approaches, so do holiday traditions. We are a multicultural family...Cuban, Texan (a whole breed of its own!) and now Ethiopian. It is important that we honor our differences. Berhanesh is from Sidamo, Ethiopia. The main language spoken in Ethiopia is Amahric. I am sure Berhanesh heard other dialects before she arrived in Addis Ababa (where the Transition Home resides). To honor her and her beautiful country, I made a special pillow, just for her! It reads, "Melkam Gena!" ---- Merry Christmas! While I was taking her picture, she said, " I can't believe it, Oh my Word!" She must hear SOMEONE say that A LOT!!!
This weekend, we will began decorating and feasting on hot chocolate and cookies! Let the decorating begin!
I seriously can't wait this long between posts! So many things can happen in our home in one week and when I don't post, I don't remember. Call it old age or the busy mom of three. I am just plain forgetful these days!
We celebrated Little Miss B's first halloween! I had a blast making her costume (Abby's too)! Cookie Monster is no longer her favorite but very close in the running to Dora and Diego! She LOVED trick-or-treating. She actually is still trick-or-treating EVERYDAY at home. She brings her little red purse to us and says "trick-or-treat," we pretend to put something in her purse! So fun!
We have visited Hobby Lobby a few times and explored the Christmas section. I am a little nervous that she may become overwhelmed. I am trying to prepare her by showing her things and letting her touch different christmas items. She is loving the trees! I can't wait until we put ours up! I am not sure how she will react to presents and Santa. Guess we will have to see...
As many of you know, we had quite the scare a couple of weeks ago with Berhanesh's health and spent the night at the hospital. She developed a very high fever, very quickly and needed lots of iv fluids. We are blessed to have a Godly doctor who prayed with us and directed us to the best care. During times like these, I am GRATEFUL that I have a support system within my family, friends and my Yahoo Group. I KNEW that my friends from all over the US (most I have never met) would lift our daughter up to the Lord in prayer! The blessings that come from adoption are amazing! I never dreamed that I would be connected in such a powerful way to so many families. Thank you for believing for our daughter's healing and for standing in the gap for us!
Little B went to some dark places during her hospital stay. So many emotions were displayed on her sweet face. The sadness and pure terror were awful to watch. Trust was lost and Tulio and I fought hard to gain it back. There were obvious memories and demons our daughter battled along with being sick. We are hopeful that she is once again gaining confidence that we ARE her forever family and that we will NEVER leave her. We believe that God will use this experience to strength the bond between us. Berhanesh is having some memories of Ethiopia. At random times, things are mentioned and we believe she is remembering. At bedtime last week, I was laying down with her and she said, "Me, Ethiopia, mommy got me and daddy too." Then she wanted to know why Abby and Ben did not come. We told her they were getting her room ready. When we pray, she prays for Ethiopia. She is trying so hard to process all the changes. B trys to convey to us what she is thinking. She pauses and tries to get the words out correctly. Can you imagine? Being so young, having lost so much, taken away from everything you have ever known (whether good or bad) and being placed in a home where everything and everyone is different? When I become frustrated and feel things are not progressing in the way in which I think it should...I just need to remember the road my daughter has traveled.
As we approach Thanksgiving, all I can say is WOW!!! I am blessed beyond measure.
For the two readers that are still following me (Aunt Mary and her friend!). So sorry for the lack of posts. We are all doing super, just busy!
Berhanesh and I spend most of our days...playing!
Last week, we celebrated 3 amazing months with our daughter home with her forever family. In the 3 months that B has been home, she has gained 7 pounds and grown 3.5 inches! She is blossoming right before our eyes! I love watching her grow, physically and emotionally. We are confident B's little personality is beginning to emerge. Some days are better than others, the memories are still there. We will probably never know what she remembers, but the look that comes across her face is something I will never forget. I don't want to. New memories will replace the sorrow and sadness but I pray that I will always be sensitive to her "story."
Things we have learned about Ava Berhanesh so far:
* Berhanesh loves Dora and Diego.
* Goldfish and apple juice have once again, become a staple in our home!
* All Berhanesh's babies have to naked, all the time! This drives Gaga crazy!
* Cell phones are very popular with Ethiopian princesses.
* Berhanesh's language is growing every day. When she gets really excited, she jumbles all the words together. Makes no sense, at all. But it does bring a great laugh!
* Prayer is really important to this little girl! Just today, she began praying on her own. When it was her turn to pray at bed time, she said "Jesus, I love you. Thank you cookie, halloween, Gaga no hurt arm and then a bunch of rattling and then Amen." When she prays, she throws her head all the way back and prays with such excitement! If we could all be like this!
* Loves music...funky music. The funkier, the better. Although, there are times when I have Kari Jobe on in the car, really loud and I am just singing...I look back and she is totally joining in. I have been know to raise my hands at the stop light while singing and I sometimes see her doing this! OH MY GOSH!!! Melts me to a puddle! What an honor to share with her the love and power of Jesus!
* Coffee con leche is a must in the morning!
* Sleeps all night (11-12 hours) in panties! No accidents! Unbelievable bladder control! Naps are still around 30 min.-1 hour. Enough time for me to potty by myself and do a load of laundry. Fun!
We went to Seaworld a couple of weeks ago and she loved Shamu! Was not too fond of the jack-o-lanterns in the park (she calls then naughty pump-i-kins)!
Friday, Sept. 25, we celebrated two months home with our girl!
I have said this so many times but she is such a JOY! A true blessing. It is amazing to me and such an example of Christ' love. The way Berhanesh has blended into our family and the way we all feel she has been with us forever is nothing short of another example of God's divine plan for our family. We are so glad that we took that HUGE step into the adoption world and we live with NO REGRETS!!!
We have had quite the month. Berhanesh is continuing to discover many new things and grows more confident each day. We continue to see some (actually, very little) signs of grieving. The moaning at nap time (sleeping almost an hour a day! YEAH!) is almost gone and she is still sleeping 11-12 hours at night. She is attaching well to our immediate family and is open to strangers talking to her. We had a doctor's appointment with an Orthopedic Specialist regarding her legs. Not such good news; however, we do have a second opinion with another specialist planned in October. Please pray for wisdom for Tulio and I.
The highlight of our month was a trip to see a special little girl that our Berhanesh loves dearly. These darling girls spent time together in Ethiopia at the TH and it was obvious they were close friends. It was a true delight to spend the weekend with Jane-Grace and her family. I was delighted in seeing my baby have a connection to her past. Berhanesh was in heaven! It is our hope to continue and nurture this relationship for many years to come.
While visiting with our new friends, we had the honor of staying with Tulio's great aunt. She is 82 and such an incredible lady. We sat around the table till midnight each night hearing story after story of her life in Cuba and how she and her family came to the United States. She is a survivor! Her testimony was a true inspiration. My kids LOVED Tia Bebe! She is a crack up! She would disappear and come back dressed up in a funny wig and outfit just to make us laugh! Berhanesh did not think it was so funny...she was freaked out!
Abby and Ben are blossoming in school. Ben was elected to student council and Abby was elected to the board of the Interact Club. They both are so excited! We could not be more proud. They are excellent students and we anticipate an awesome report card!
This morning, I dressed Berhanesh in one of her beautiful Ethiopian dresses and headed out to celebrate New Years! Berhanesh was beyond excited when she saw her dress. She kept saying, "have, have..." She spun around while saying, "pretty, pretty." BE STILL MY HEART!!! September 11 marks the start of a New Year in Ethiopia. While we are in the year 2009, Ethiopia is beginning the year 2002.
We went to the store and picked up some flowers and delivered them to some family while wishing them a "Happy New Year." Berhanesh received some coins in return. We had so much fun!
Tonight, we will have our family over for dinner to help continue the celebration. I am excited to be able to celebrate this joyous occasion with our princess. In the joy of today, I am reminded of how lucky we are to have this child with us. Sometimes it is hard to believe she is really here. In continuing the beginning of a new tradition in our home, we will light a candle in honor of Berhanesh's birth family. We know some have gone on before us...some remain in Ethiopia. It is our desire to honor her family, wherever they may be.
"Dear Father, thank you for such a special day! We are thrilled to share with Berhanesh some of the culture from her birth land. I look at Berhanesh and I see a glimpse of who you are. We are honored to play a small part in B's journey. Thank you for choosing us! I ask Lord that you be with B's family in Ethiopia today. Provide, protect, heal and minister to her family in only the way you can. I pray they are given the opportunity to know about your son, Jesus. You are awesome! I love you. Amen."
We have been home from Ethiopia for a little over 5 weeks now. I have written and erased THIS post about 10 times. I am not sure how to put to paper what is in my heart. Please be patient with me as I attempt to convey my heart feelings. I feel if this is something I need to do, for me. This is rather long...make sure you have enough time!
Just a little history...
Tulio and I were raised in the same churches (same denomination, different churches) for over 15 years each, respectfully. We were presented with missions and foreign missionaries our entire life. I remember being a little girl, wearing an asian dress and attending a mission conference. I vividly recall standing at the Ghana, West Africa table gawking at the different types of food that were presented for our sampling. My sister and I, among our friends, would nudge each other in a dare over who would try "THAT"first. I remember sitting in "big church," hearing Mark Buntain preach about the children of Calcutta, India. Wow! He was a great man! As a little girl, I dreamed of being a missionary or a pastor's wife.
Tulio and I met though church. I knew Tulio wanted to be a pastor, which just thrilled me. We married young, so in love and so naive. Tulio graduated from seminary and we began our ministry career. We served as full time associate pastors (mainly serving children and youth) for over 9 years, followed by a year from hell as Tulio was a hospital chaplain. Tulio was an ordained minister for a very long time. Through a series of bad, rough, heart crushing experiences we left full time pastoral ministry. We were broken and severely bruised. We did not attend church. At all. For a very long time. We left our denomination and felt homeless. Everything we had ever known, people we thought were friends, it was all gone.
We begin attending a very large church, one that we could hide in. We did not tell a soul our previous ministerial experience, for fear of being asked to serve. Tulio begin a career as a public school teacher and it was our GOAL to forget what had happened over the last decade of our lives.
Very, very slowly...we began to heal. The bondage and bitterness that had held us hostage begin to fall away. Letters were written to previous minsters, asking for forgiveness of grudges they were not even aware of. We begin to feel free. To feel whole and healed. A wise woman, my mom, often told me and still reminds me that all those years were not in vain, that God will use them to His benefit and for His glory.
Tulio and I both felt lead to adopt a child several years ago but a number of things kept us sitting on the sidelines. So many different excuses to not obey what we felt called to do. Our pastor, Kerry Shook, did a series at church (which is now a best selling book), entitled, "One month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life." This was the fire we needed. We did not want to look back over our lives and REGRET obeying God's commandment for our family. We began the adoption process the same month Pastor Kerry's book was released, February 2008.
Tulio found a career that he loves and has been very successful in pharmaceutical sales. We still attend "the" large church, not so much in hiding anymore. We have opened up ourselves and have begin to offer our experience through both ministry and adoption to whatever God has for us.
When Tulio and I begin this adoption journey so long ago, we weren't really sure where it would take us. Yes, we knew we would bring home a child, a girl. That, we were certain of. We came to find out, rather quickly, that in the adoption world, certainty is NOT common. Ups and downs are just part of the process. Trust in God (or rather a poor attempt) became "the way", the only certain thing we KNEW we could hold onto. The feelings and emotions that we both thought we were healed from, resurfaced during this process. We were shocked to realize that we both knew NOTHING of true trust. Something we both taught others, yet we we never truly lived. Super humbling! God knew the plans He had for us. He knew that we needed to be refined and reminded that He is our all in all. We lived and breathed Jeremiah 29:11.
As most of you know by now, I am a planner. Control Freak. Really. In my mind, I had these perfect moments of when we were to meet our daughter for the first time. I had the perfect outfit picked out. I just KNEW she would instantly love us and not grieve...you get the picture. About two weeks before our travels, I was praying for our trip and for B' s little heart and I felt the Lord tell me to lay all my plans aside. Would I trust Him and be open to all He has planned for Tulio and I to receive. Was He not the one in control? Would He not orchestrate the perfect meeting day for us? Was I allowing Him to fully be in control? I quickly and humbly apologized and asked my creator to take over. Looking back, I am so thankful that I listened and obey the Lord. Tulio and I did experience more than we could have ever planned on our own. Sure, we had some tough times, but in those dark moments, I just remembered Jesus asking me to love and feel the way He would. Removing myself is the only way I survived our trip.
I really, really believed that once we had Berhanesh home that our story would be finished. Little did I know, it was really just the beginning. When you embark on a journey such as ours, returning home is filled with many mixed emotions. How do you live among the people of a 3rd world country and not be moved? How do you come home and live your life the same? Tulio and I honestly miss Ethiopia. We miss the smells and the culture, the people, the children. We saw first hand extreme poverty and we will never be the same. The faces of the street children haunt Tulio at night. I have seen a burning, exciting passion return to my sweet husband. Something I thought was lost forever.
Would you join us in prayer? Pray for God's direction in our family.
The next couple of posts will primarily be photos from the first month that Ava Berhanesh has been home with us! She is an amazing child! We are beyond thrilled that she is a part of our family! Enjoy!
*** The following pictures were taken at a splash pad in the heart of our town. All 3 of my kiddos had a blast playing in the water. ***
We have been home for three weeks with our daughter, Berhanesh. Considering all the major life changes, she is a real trooper! What a true delight this child is! Unbelievable joyful!
Berhanesh is physically doing well. All her lab work from Texas Children's has come back completely normal and her tummy issues are slowly getting better. We have had Early Childhood Intervention to our home twice. Berhanesh will be receiving some therapy to help strengthen her legs as well as assistance with language and motor skills. We are super excited to see where this extra help will take her!
We have had a number of friends and family visitors since we have been home. I just want to send a HUGE Thank You to all of you! Your love and support since arriving home has been tremendous. We are blessed to have such a large group of loved ones! Little Miss B is warming up to many of you, it is so fun to watch the interaction!
We did go to church this morning. I was super nervous! We attend a very large church and Berhanesh was super overwhelmed when we first arrived. Her daddy was able to calm her fears and she sat on his lap, holding his hand and rubbing his face, during the worship time. We moved to the family viewing room for the preaching part and B did GREAT! She was so excited to go and get big sis and brother from their classes. Overall, it was a success!
There were many "firsts" this week: James Coney Island hot dog, ice-cream, family get-together (cuban style...HUGE!), church.
This is the last week of the summer...kids go back to school in one week. We have a freshman in High School-YIKES! and a sixth grader. This is going to be a fabulous school year!