30 August 2008

Pray for Abby

This little beauty (above) is Abby. She has stolen my heart with her electric smile. I came to know the Riggs family because while we were in Ethiopia last year, I met this extraordinary girl, Samrawit (below).

Because of the miracle of adoption Abby and Sami are now sisters, and they have four brothers and another sister, too!

Abby has leukemia. She has been incredibly brave, but this is a long journey for her, so we need the Body of Christ to lift her up in prayer for complete healing and for endurance during the next 2 1/2 years of treatment. Brent & Michelle regularly blog updates, so please follow along with me in soaking prayer for Abby.

God is bigger than leukemia. I know that He is using this experience for the spread of the Gospel, too. Praise the Lord for the witness that the Riggs family already is, and continues to be as they are so faithful in relying on the Lord's strength and remaining joyful during this trial. I am so inspired by them!

"Then little children were brought to Jesus

for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them.

But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said,

"Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them,

for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these."

Matthew 19.13-14

27 August 2008

20 Years Ago at Westmont College

(edited to add photos)

Once upon a time there was a girl and a boy who met on the first day of school. Boy saw girl and thought, "Me Tarzan. You Jane." Girl thought boy was a lunkhead, but a cute one. Boy strutted around being loud, obnoxious, and cocky and teased girl trying to get girl to notice. Girl noticed. And laughed and teased back. Boy was funny and smart. Boy was different than any other boy. Girl and boy became friends. They sat next to each other in class every day, and enjoyed laughing together.

Months later, when girl was sure boy would never ask her out, boy did. Boy took girl to the movies, and then out for coffee. Then boy and girl snuck into a beautiful chapel on campus and boy played the baby grand piano so beautifully that girl was sure that the angels stopped to listen, too. Girl heard God whisper, "This is your boy."

Boy did not kiss girl for a long time. Girl wanted boy to kiss her very much. Finally, when boy kissed girl he said, "Tarzan love Jane. Let's get married and make lots of baby boys and girls." Girl said, "YIPEE!"

20 years pass. Boy and girl still laugh, and tease, and like being friends. Boy still thinks, "Me Tarzan. You Jane." Girl still thinks boy is a lunkhead, but a cute one. Girl loves boy more than she thought her heart could bear.

Boy and girl are living happily ever after with lots of baby boys and girls.

Ah, Yes, the Homeschool Year Has Begun Again...

School days, school days

Dear old Golden Rule days!

Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic

Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick...

Wow, summer went by like a rocket! This is our first official week of the school year. 10th grade, 8th grade, and 4th grade. Thank You, Jesus, for homeschooling!

For those of you who have been worried about my mental health with everything I've had on my plate this summer, my new helper, Rosie, started Monday. Woo hoo! I love her. She's funny, and sweet, and loves the Lord. The kids warmed to her immediately. She bussed around the house doing whatever needed to be done and I swear I almost kissed her square on the lips the first day. Thank You, Jesus, for Rosie!

And, now I've got to get back to tuning up my hick'ry stick...

World Vision Experience: AIDS (Step Into Africa)

What an experience it is. I highly recommend that everyone, every Christian, every parent, every person who thinks they know the story of AIDS take time for this extraordinary exhibit.

Check out the World Vision Experience: AIDS (Step Into Africa) website to find a venue local to you and get your FREE tickets.

Due to the highly emotional nature of this event because it is intentially personally applicable, parental discression is advised. Our older two (13 & 12) were very moved, our younger son (8) couldn't handle it so we decided against the headphones.

Hausams & Mastrellas at Calvary Community Church, Westlake Village

Dinner at Marmalade Cafe

26 August 2008

OCEAN Little Ethiopia Night!

It was a wonderful night of fun conversation with great friends and a bunch of beautiful kids... and tasty wat and injera!

25 August 2008

Abe in Arms!

Moody & Emily, and all of Team Alexander, have precious Abe in their embrace! What JOY!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

*UPDATE -- Do not miss their most recent photo slideshow of Gotcha Day! It's a killer, so be forewarned, and grab a box of tissues first! I blubbered the whole way through. Happy, happy tears.

22 August 2008

"HALLELUJAH!" African-Style

Got this from Uncle Ray along with this verse.

"O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph." Ps 47:1

Over 2 million people praising Jesus at one time in one place. Incredible!

Last Year in Ethiopia

We've been dwelling all week on what an amazing blessing having Elianna Ray in our family is. Our time in Ethiopia, with an extraordinary group of adoptive families, was lifechanging. Thank You, Lord, for All God's Children, for Martha, for Almaz, for all the staff and Special Mothers at Hannah's Hope, for our travelmates and their Ethiopian children (the Schneiders and Hope, the Belchers and Caleb, and the Redmans and Grace), and especially for Ray Ray!

OCEAN Weekend Reminders

Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba,
who won the gold medal in the 5000m adding to her gold medal in the 10,000m!
(OK, that part's not a weekend reminder. I just thought it was awesome!)

Orange County Ethiopian Adoption Network

Let's have dinner in Little Ethiopia

This Saturday, August 23rd 5:00 pm

Little Ethiopia, LA

Come see

with us!
Sunday, August 24 at 4:00

At Calvary Community Church, Westlake Village

Tickets are FREE!

Dinner afterwards at PF Changs or Marmalade Café.

And, if you haven't already, be sure to join our OCEAN Facebook group set up by Brendan!

20 August 2008

Happy Birthday, Evangeline!

My sweet Evangeline is TWO today!

Happy birthday, precious girl! You are a true delight. I love your sparkling personality and light-up-the-room laugh and smile. I love your darling dance moves and that you are always ready for more zrbts (raspberry kisses)! I love to hear your sing the abc's and "Jesus Loves Me" (and "Panama"!). I love to hear you pray, "Thank You, Jesus, for today." It blesses my soul. Papa and I prayed and prayed for you for five long years, and when you arrived I realized that that wait just made us enjoy and appreciate sweet little you even more. You make my heart rejoice! I am so proud of you, my darling girl. Mama loves Evie! Happy birthday, gorgeous!

19 August 2008

One Year Anniversary!

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him."

1 Samuel 1:27

Today is the first anniversary of Elianna Ray Day! That's the day that this little beauty, born Betelihem Bekele...

became OUR little beauty, Elianna Ray!

Here we are with Almaz,
the (probably an angel in disguise) wonderful woman who runs Hannah's Hope Ethiopia.

Elianna means "my God has provided" in Hebrew. Our daughter is named for my grandmother (Elizabeth Anne Ortlund), me (Anna is my middle name) and for my precious granddaddy (Ray Ortlund, Sr.) who went Home to Jesus on July 22nd, just two weeks after we showed him her beautiful photo and shared with him that she would carry his name.

This year has been a year of beautiful miracles. We never would have imagined when the Lord planted the desire in our hearts for a child from Ethiopia what a journey it would be.

Thank You, Father, for Ray Ray! Thank You for carrying us through those first few months of adjustment which were so very much more trying than we expected them to be. Thank You for answering prayer after prayer for her health and development. Thank You for all the amazing milestones of the past year. Thank You for weaving us into a family. Thank You for the awareness of and compassion for the many desperate plights of Africans (AIDS, disease, famine, drought, poverty, oppression and war) and the desire to help that having an Ethiopian daughter has brought to our hearts and minds. Thank You for the immense joy she has added to our lives!

One year ago...

... and today!

17 August 2008

Special Correspondent, from Lake Forest, CA

(From Michael)

Disclosure: I am a biased, right-wing supporting, laissez faire-encouraging, Sowell/D'Souza/O'Rourke/Coulter/Williams/Buckley/Friedman/Wall Street Journal Op-Ed/Bennett-reading, freedom-loving conservative. *breath* I think Antonin Scalia is the best thing that has ever happened to the Supreme Court and Robert Bork not being Chief is the worst. I think that Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint are the best hope for the Repubs, and that "Leave Us Alone" would be a great plank in a party platform. Imprinted on my political soul is the sentiment from a T-shirt I saw the other day: an outline of The Gipper with the words "What He Said" underneath. On the other hand, I was voted "Most Opinionated" by my graduating class and it was years before I understood that it was NOT a complement. Hopefully, with age has come maturity and a measure of graciousness... OK, so now we're introduced.

First a little comedy:

Driving through Lake Forest, I saw nothing but Ron Paul supporters. Everywhere. Signs, banners, tents, posters, t-shirts, loudspeakers, the whole shebang. The local press warned of hundreds of protesters from the entire political spectrum, but I didn't see them!

Lots and lots of security, bag checks, a group of mean-looking folks that put the TSA weenies to shame. I was standing in line to get approval to enter, hearing "Photo ID please" over and over and over, and as the security fellow asked me for mine, I pulled out my wallet and realized "Doh!" that my driver's license was nowhere to be found! He was not happy, frowning as I fumbled through my Costanza-thick wallet, impatient to attend to the throng behind me. "Well, I do have my Sports Club LA/Irvine photo ID with me," I said as I showed it to him. "Oh sure, that'll do. Thanks. Enjoy." Hysterical.

It was quite a production. TV cameras, press people, tons of video/audio stuff, Secret Service and security folk all over the place. And also a bit of a celebrity watch (humiliating admission: I love seeing famous people. It's fun! I'm the über-geek that points out "Hey, that looks like Topol! Or is it Ringo?!"). There's Gary Bauer, here's Michael W. Smith, that guy I recognize from Focus, this guy's famous, there's a well-known pastor... I'm sure there were more, but I wanted to keep my rubbernecking to a minimum. Quite exciting!

That said, I got chills when both Obama and then McCain walked on stage, just a few yards away. What an incredible privilege to be at this historic event! Very surreal and exhilarating.

My Obama analysis: Smooth as silk, very handsome and polished, suave, just oozing ease and charisma. I can see why people LOVE this guy. Before he said a word, I loved him, too! However, right from the start, it seemed that he was going to be as disappointingly indirect as possible. Long non-answering answers ruled. Although Rick Warren's questions covered most of the political issues confronting us, Senator Obama seemed to stick with answers designed to appease everyone. He only gave specific responses on a few questions: abortion (pro), taxes (pro), judges (anti-Thomas and anti-Scalia). The rest of his answers meandered at length, seeming to be preparation for a guest-appearance on Sesame Street (gentle, non-specific fuzzy-warmth) or with Tony Robbins (excited, non-specific fuzzy-warmth). I was hoping for a more ideological discussion detailing his policies, point by point by point. Although I disagreed with some of his points and wasn't sure what he actually believed on others, I understand the wave of support for him as he is an obviously super brilliant and impressive individual.

My McCain analysis: Surprisingly stiff and rigid as he entered and greeted Senator Obama, Pastor Warren and the audience. I felt immediately terrified for him that this night was going to be a disaster. But I was wrong. Way wrong. He was sharp, very funny, and 100% direct and succinct. The issues and responses: evil -- defeat it; taxes -- anti; education -- all about choices and competition (home schooling, charters, private, vouchers, etc.), and fire the sub par teachers. The Fox guy this morning described it as "The Straight Talk Express on steroids." Totally. And I found myself incredulous. And cheering. And wanting to stand in applause. Hankering to buy some stickers and yard signs.

The juxtaposition between the two candidates was incredible!

That's me (bottom corner of photo) our seats were 5 rows back and just off center! Awesome!

It was if Obama was cautious and over-thinking "I need to make sure to be inclusive, and not alienate anyone..." which I found to be off-putting. McCain seemed to be talking straight off the cuff communicating "This is what I strongly believe on the issue. Like it or lump it." I couldn't help but like it.

The candidates on abortion:

The candidates on education:

The candidates on the Supremes:

When I got home, Laurie and I watched it for the 2nd time, awed that I was there, totally grateful to to be able to be such a close-hand observer of the process. Enormous thanks to my fellow political junkie buddy, Curtis Yates, for making it possible!

16 August 2008

McCain & Obama on Evangelical Issues Tonight!

Michael got the hot ticket of the year. He gets to go to the political debate tonight on evangelical Christian issues between Barak Obama and John McCain as they are interviewed by Pastor Rick Warren ("Purpose Driven Life") at Saddleback Church! Expect a full report tomorrow.

"As a pastor, I believe in the separation of church and state, but I don't believe we can separate religion from politics, because one's faith determines one's worldview, which informs one's decisions and determines how one would lead. The reason we are hosting this historic event is to stake out common ground for the common good." - Rick Warren

The two hour event, held from 5-7 p.m. and broadcast live -- in real time across all zones starting 8 p.m. (EDT) -- on CNN, FOX News Channel and Daystar Television Network, as well as Southern California's KDOC-TV. America can also watch the event via live streaming at SaddlebackCivilForum.com, and ReadersDigest.com or listen on the FamilyLife, Moody and Pilgrim Radio Networks and select Salem Radio Network stations through Southern California affiliate, KKLA-Radio.

I'm definitely going to see if I catch a glimpse of Michael who'll be sitting right up front!

15 August 2008

World Vision Experience: AIDS (Step Into Africa)

OCEAN families,

Sunday, August 24 at 4:00
At Calvary Community Church, Westlake Village
Tickets are FREE!

Dinner afterwards at PF Changs or Marmalade Café, depending on the size of our group.

Let us know if you can make it! Blessings.

14 August 2008

Building Bridges

I had a very funny interaction with Not Nice Checkout Clerk at the market the other day. This poor lady just never has a good day. Never smiles. Never says one pleasant thing. I've been chatting her up and working on getting her to make eye-contact and to have a friendly conversation for 2 years at least, poor thing.

Anyway, a few days ago she was scanning our groceries wearing her usual Not Nice expression when she said...

NNCC: You have a lot of kids.

Me: Yep, 5 good ones.

NNCC: (turning to the babies) What are they... twins?

Me: No, actually they're 5 1/2 months apart.

NNCC: Which kid's older?

Me: Evangeline, the blonde, is almost 2. Elianna Ray, the brunette, is 18 months old.

NNCC: Which one's yours?

Me: (a little smirk) Both are mine.

NNCC: (rolling her eyes) I meeeean, do you have a white husband or a black one.

Me: (saucily) Who says she's from my husband?

NNCC: Touché!

I laughed. She laughed! We both laughed! I think we're friends now. Hooray!

Pre Barf-o-Rama Photos

Thanks for the birthday wishes, friends! Here are a few pics from before the wheels fell off our day. :P

13 August 2008

Happy Barfday to Me!

Yesterday was Happy 38th to me. The 30s are waning, folks. And fast.

My brother gave me a special Bible verse "...now that (I'm) nearing 40."

'O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wonderous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.' Ps. 71:17-18

Har har.

The day started out so nicely. Michael turned off my alarm so I slept in, waking a little later to my family singing me the HB song and bringing me coffee in bed. Family devotionals. Croissants from my favorite bakery. Nice. We headed to the marina with our swimsuits and sunscreen, and then up the coast stopping every now and then to take a dip in the water. We ended up off of beautiful Malibu.

What a perfect, gorgeous day! Swimming in the ocean. Jumping off the bow. Listening to great music. Yummy lunch. Back in the water. What more could I ask? It was little choppy, but otherwise a completely lovely day out on the ocean.

After a few hours we decided to move up the coast a little more so Michael turned the key and it sounded like the noise when you get a fork stuck in the garbage disposal. Not good. The starter had died.

We got stranded! The older kids thought this was very funny and sang the "Gilligan's Island" theme over and over. Not super hysterical in my opinion at that very minute.

That's when we had to call SeaTow to tug us into port.

That's when the waves really started to rock and roll.

That's when our rescue took an hour to arrive.

And that's when the babies started wailing and screaming.

I'm going to digress here and say that you just never know when The Best Day Ever is going to hit. A couple of months ago the two of us were in San Francisco for just 24 hours. But what a DAY! We flew in, checked in to our hotel, ate lunch, lounged in the sun, strolled down to Pier 39, and enjoyed a relaxing, foggy harbor cruise. We walked hand-in-hand through town, napped, went out to a nice dinner, caught a late movie, and indulged in midnight dessert at Mel's Diner. We woke up early, had coffee and rolls in a great bakery, checked out, and cruised around the city before picking up the older kids in Sacramento. Talk about The Best Day Ever! It was idyllic!

This was not that day.

The waves were getting big. I'm talking big. Lose your footing and hit your head waves. There were seven of us stuck on a stranded boat. Crying babies. Our anchor dragging. Getting closer to shore. Wondering where on earth SeaTow could be. Did I mention the crying babies? Bigger waves. More waiting.

Let's just say it went downhill from there. SeaTow finally arrived, hooked us up and started to tow us in. Very, very slowly because of the whitecaps.

And, THAT, my friends, is when the barfing started.

Lots of barfing.

Contagious barfing.

Barfing off the stern. Barfing off the splash deck. Barfing IN the cabin.

Michael, who can handle almost anything but vomit, bolted for the bow to get fresh air so he didn't lose his cookies, too.

I tried to keep the babies out of the mess... Don't ask. It was gross.

Isn't it amazing how FAST things can go badly? One minute we're enjoying a birthday out on the water, the next it's Barf-o-rama! Once we finally got everything cleaned up and hosed down we then realized that SeaTow had put a nice hole in the hull. FUN!

Now that all the little tummies were empty, everyone was starving. After feeding the kids and putting them to bed, we shared a glass of wine, joked about basking in the glow of an idyllic day, and laughed until we cried.

Happy 38th barfday to me!

09 August 2008


Potty Princesses

I'm proud to announce that my darling Elianna Ray sat upon her throne for only the second time and put a large pile of poo in it!

A certain unnamed toddler *ahem* *cough* *Evangeline* *cough* has set a very bad example of potty etiquette, basically refusing to poo in the proper place. We started six months ago and enjoyed mild success for a while before she completely quit so I backed off and after a bit tried again... and again... Yeah, not doing so great in the doodie department.

And yet, my sugar Ray Ray got the idea right away! She's a Super Duper Pooper!

Evangeline just looked at her with a face that said, "Showoff!"

I never would have imagined actually praying for potty success, and yet I do. I think the Lord may chuckle at my pleas, but He's on my team. I can feel it!

08 August 2008

California Homeschooling Victory!

WOO HOO!!! I can honestly say that I never sweated this issue, but it's great that it's finally resolved for all of us homeschooling Californians! PRAISE THE LORD!!!

In a unanimous decision, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District today ruled that "California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education."

Like Julie, I'm glad I won't be jailed for educating my children. What a relief! Thanks for your support, Ahnold!

For all the details contact:
Home School Legal Defense Association
P.O. Box 3000
Purcellville, Virginia 20134-9000
Phone: (540) 338-5600
Fax: (540) 338-2733
Email: info@hslda.org
Web: http://www.hslda.org/

OCEAN -- Wat's up!

Orange County Ethiopian Adoption Network

Wat’s Up!

Are you hungry for some injera and wat?

Come dine with us
Saturday, August 23rd 5:00 pm
Meals By Genet
Little Ethiopia, LA

If this will be your first time eating Ethiopian cuisine and you’re a little hesitant about it, let me assure you that it’s delicious! Prepare to eat with your hands. Before you eat, you wash your hands at the table in a big basin of water with soap. Then the food is oftentimes served in a mesob, which is a traditional tabletop with a colorful straw top to keep the food warm. All the dishes are served on top of injera, which is a big, spongy, sourdough flatbread made from teff (gluten free, fyi). You use the injera to pick up bites. No forks allowed, folks. There are many different kinds of wat which is a spicy stew. The only thing I turn my nose up at is kitfo, which is very spicy raw beef that's diced or ground. No can do. But, hey, you might love it! The vegetables and vegetable stews are very tasty, too. Ethiopian beer is quite delish, but a full menu of sodas, etc. are also available. After eating everything with your hands, at the end of the meal you wash them again at the table and finish up drinking some delicious Ethiopian coffee.

For those of you out of the area who want to try some of the best food you can put in your mouth, check out this site to find your local Ethiocuisine.

Please RSVP to my email address or by commenting on this post so I can secure a reservation as we’ll likely be a decent sized group.

I hope you’ll be there! Ciao!

07 August 2008

Welcome Home, Daniel!

Curtis & Karen came home last weekend from Ethiopia with their precious son, Daniel, aka (by the special mothers at Hannah's Hope Ethiopia) "Dannydannydannydannydanny"! Welcome home, beautiful boy. We love you, little man.

BU '08 Sunday Slideshow

More fun photos of our last day in Hermosa! THANK YOU, Drew & Carey, for being such delightful hosts!

06 August 2008

BU '08 Saturday Slideshow

What a fun day!

02 August 2008

BU '08 Fiesta Photos

Carey & Drew, our wonderful hosts, already put together a slide show of Blog Union '08's Kick Off Fiesta. They are amazing! You can view their photos here.