31 January 2009

Happy Birthday to our African Violet!

Happy 2nd birthday to our Ethiopian princess! We are so thankful that the Lord sent us on the journey to Africa to meet this beautiful baby girl named Betelihem Bekele and weave her into our hearts and family. We chose the name Elianna because it is a combination of our grandmother's (Elizabeth Anne Ortlund) name and Mama's middle name (Anna) plus it means "my God has provided" in Hebrew. Only after we first saw her precious face did we realize that God had given us a Hebrew name for the little one He had perfectly planned for us named Bethlehem. With hearts pounding, we opened that email and fell in love with her on the spot!

Here she is a year and a half later, and we are even more crazy about our Ray Ray! It has been so fun to watch her grow, and learn, and discover. So delightful to see the shy and fearful baby become a confident, goofy, flirty personality that brings so much joy to everyone around her. So beautiful to learn down to the marrow of our bones (again) that biology doesn't matter a whit and neither does nationality. She has immeasurably enriched our lives, changed our perspective, opened our eyes to the needs in Africa, and lit a fire in our hearts for the orphans all over the world.

Baby girl, we are wild about you. You are such a treasure. We love your sweet voice, your expressive face, your squeezable bunnies and kissable lips, your jammin' dance moves, and your snuggly little self in entirety. We are blessed to be your Mama & Papa! Happy birthday, little muffin!

Thank You, Father, for Ray Ray!

26 January 2009

Hannah's Hope Ethiopia Video

I just came across this video today which I hadn't seen in a while. It's the AGCI promo video for Hannah's Hope Ethiopia, where Elianna Ray was cared for before she came home. Beautiful! How I long to go back to Africa!


22 January 2009

Shoes for Orphans

This video is from our dear friends, Randy and Susan Clark, who brought their precious new children, Sophia and Elijah, home in March of last year. Susan's brother-in-law, Mark Jacobs, travelled with them to make a documentary film about international adoption. He put together this short film for Calvary Church who donated 2,000 pairs of shoes for orphans in Ethiopia. Randy and Susan had the exquisite privilege of personally delivering some of those shoes to the children in Sophia's orphanage. This just blesses my heart.

Shoes for Ethiopia from Calvary Arts & Media on Vimeo.

14 January 2009

Please, Pray for Abby!

This little love is Abby Riggs, a precious little girl whom we came to know of through meeting her sister, Sami, at Hannah's Hope in Ethiopia in '07. Her folks posted a catch up page for those of you who do not know her story and to give some details about her leukemia.

Today Abby starts a new treatment phase, the "hell" stage, wherein she has the smallest chance of survival according to her doctors. Of course, God can do anything that He wills no matter what likelihood of survival her physicians give her. He is with her through the "Valley of the Shadow", too.

PLEASE be praying today:

  • For Abby to survive and be healed of leukemia
  • For the Riggs family
  • For the doctors and nurses tending to Abby
  • And especially for the entire community of people who have been moved by her family's unwavering and inspiring faith in the face of this serious diagnosis and "hellish" chemotherapy that they might meet Jesus

And, please share Abby's prayer needs and the Riggs' blog onto your family, friends, church prayer chain, etc.

12 January 2009

Oh Praise Him!

This morning the alarm went off at 4:55 as usual and I awoke tired (and maybe a weensy bit grumpy), and with my obligations for the week already vying for attention in my head.

By the way, as far as I'm concerned, the alarm clock is right up there with the scale on my Hateful Machine-o-meter. Both of them, the alarm clock and the scale, just never ever say or do nice things. The refrig takes warm things and makes them cool. Good! The dishwasher, when not treated abusively, makes everything sparkle with cleanliness. Good! The fax machine performs whatever mysteriously inscrutible voodoo magic and sends my papers to other fax machines and computers. Amazing! (OK, I'm not very electronically competent. Whatever.)

The alarm clock, however, just annoys me. Even when I set it to 95.9 The Fish or 105.1 K-Mozart. It wakes me up, which is always a dangerous thing to do. The scale, now, is far, far worse... Seriously, think about this now... I think it is actually an evil entity. It doesn't matter what kind you get: a medical scale like you find at the doctor's office or the gym, the digital kind, the body mass index reader kind (Warning: Mega-mega-evil, FYI), at the root they are all very, very bad. I know you probably are thinking that they both are just doing their jobs and here I am giving them a big hassle, but I'm onto them.

Anywho, all that to say, I wasn't choosing edifying thoughts this morning. Not doing great on #5. Not focused on Jesus.

Melissa, dear sister, snapped me out of it with this video. It broke through my selfish, grumbling thinking and pierced my heart. I told Melissa that this is exactly how I truly desire to be... all about Jesus, following His will no matter the cost, and worshipping Him with abandon! It's not short, but don't skip it. Watch it when you have the time.

(And, beware of alarm clocks and scales... just in case I'm right.)

(Melissa, aka Mamalissa, aka Hoodmama, is also sister-in-love to Emily. They're two of the coolest chicks in Texas.)

08 January 2009

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

How many of you think that homeschooling must be a piece of pie? Come on, I know you're out there. Let's see a show of hands.

Well, I am here to tell you that it is most decidedly NOT always a big slice of lemon meringue deliciousness.

Sometimes it's more like being beaten with a large bag of lemons!

Occasionally, it's just very h.a.r.d. Haaaaaaaaaaaaard! It's not necessarily the teaching (algebra equations, or the order of the Caesars, tricks for spelling the more challenging words, the names of all the bones of the human skeleton, or the fantastic political satire of "Alice in Wonderland"... or any of the lovely subjects we're studying right now) that is particularly difficult. Most of what we learn is interesting and fun.

It's not creating lesson plans, or grading or filing papers, or keeping the schoolroom and library organized. Most of that is just time-consuming.

The thing is that you also have to parent at the same time. Kids know how to tap into that special place in parents that really bakes their noodle. And, kids can be very, very naughty on occasion. *ahem* Yeah. Plus, you also have siblings together. Siblings who can really annoy the woowee out of each other when they want to do so. Don't believe me? Come on over and check out the blood spatter on my schoolroom ceiling! Nah, I'm just kidding. I cleaned that off days ago.

See, it's doing both that can sometimes be really exhausting. You have to really exhale on the "haust" to convey the meaning here. It's like this: ex-hhhaaauuuuus-Ting. Hard "t" for emphasis. There you go. Good job.

That's not to say that I don't really and truly love teaching my children. I do. Sincerely. It's just that sometimes I wish they would go away.

I kid.
No, five kid!

Right up front (oh, I guess I've been prattling for a while so it's more like right in the middle) I'll say that I was not born wanting to homeschool my children. Did you guess that already? It was something the Lord chose for me and pretty much hounded me into doing. However, it's also been a huge blessing and pretty quickly I grew to love the lifestyle it provides. Family days and field trips in the middle of the week when everyone else is at school or work are really great. Taking vacations off season... sweet! Don't even get me started about our kids not having a clue about a new horrid style of clothing, or an irritating toy that is all the rage and must-have, or some pre-teen pop star who'll end up being the Playmate of the Month sometime in the next couple of years. That's priceless.

But sometimes it is all-consuming and wearying. I'm just sayin'.

Oooh, here's another thing! Michael and I have a little name for just doing a big fat nothing. It's called "dinkin' around".

Some people think homeschooling is really homedinkaround. (No show of hands please. It'll just tick me off and nobody wants that.)

These adorable people call us homeschooling mamas in the middle of the day for long phone conversations! They ask, "Hey, since you're not working, can you run an errand for me, and then pick up little Anthem and Trout after ballet?" Gah! They want a personal shopper and free babysitting since we have some much extra time on our hands doing the homedinkaround! Seriously, it's a crack up!

So, now you know. Mostly, homeschooling is awesome and I wouldn't trade the last 10 years of teaching my children for a 6-bedroom villa in Tuscany (unless it had an English garden and a really nice pool). But, it's also a huge job. Huge.

Just for fun, here's a mini-lesson for you:
For easy memorization, try singing the Fruits of the Spirit to the tune of Brahms' "Lulluby". "Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness and goodness, faith, meekness, temperance are the Fruits of the Spirit."

Also, kids (or adults) can learn the names of Christ's original 12 disciples by singing them to the tune of "Happy Birthday". Here's the order we use: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon, Judas, and Bartholomew.

Admit it. I know you just sang them in your head, so don't try to pretend that you didn't 'cause no one will believe you! Now, you'll never forget! That's just a little taste of homeschooling for ya...

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

06 January 2009

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2009!

Welcome 2009!
(Does it take everyone else months to write that year correctly?)

First off, I'm going to just rip that bandaid off fast, step straight into the path of your potential scorn, mocking, and derision, and bring up last year's resolutions... Be gentle.

That's right. You guessed it. I profoundly and immeasurably stink at resolutions. Some I didn't completely bomb out in, but I must admit that sometime in the fall I started wondering, "Now what were all those resolutions again?" because I could only remember the easier ones like The Year of Living Thankfully (which I did complete. Yea me.). Bad bad bad!

Have I quit making resolutions, though? Noooooo. I sat right on down and wrote some more. I'm wild and crazy that way.

All humbling admissions aside, I know you're itching to hear the new list, so here goes:

I hereby declare 2009 to be

1. GIVE like there's no tomorrow. My time, finances, possessions, energy, service, friendship, prayer, confession, forgiveness, grace... Absolutely everything God has given me in His abundance I want to give away like it's a hot potato.

Just so you know, so far, so good. I started off by giving away my stomach flu to everyone within a five mile radius!

2. Turn thankfulness into reciprocation and service. When the Lord, my family, friends, or others bless me I want to not just receive that gift/ service/ love with thanks, but return it thoughtfully and meaningfully. I need to get creative here.

3. Patience, patience, patience. That translates to: be less of a crusty, fractious, old bag.

4. Pick Michael's brain for all the ways I can serve him better. That shouldn't be a stretch. I think he might just have a few thoughts.

5. "Think on these things." Focus on God and His many blessings... Let the junky stuff go. No dwelling on old baggage, old sins, the old self for which Christ has already paid the price. Say farewell to the negative thinking that only brings discouragement and distracts me from Jesus, goodbye to the bad feelings and any upset towards others, sayonara to selfish reasoning.

6. Be teachable, learn the first time around, be easily corrected by Jesus, by my husband, by others whom I trust. Stop being a stubborn mule.

7. As a family, go on at least one mission trip this year! Serve our hearts out in ministry. Save money every month for a service trip to Ethiopia! (Our family is so excited about this goal.)

8. Follow in my sister's elliptical machine steps and exercise more (although I draw the line at 2 hours. She's insanely unstoppable.)! Have you seen that girl?! She's The Incredible Shrinking Woman! Come on and do the wave with me now. Go Lisa! Go Lisa! Woot-woot! Go Lisa!

There ya go. The new 2009 resolution list. Is it overly ideal? Yes. Is it accomplishable? Well, a girl can dream.

What am I saying? What about #5? Shall I break it already? No!

This year is THE YEAR! In Christ Jesus, all things are possible! So, in Him, I shall be victorious! Take THAT, negative thinking!

See? I'm half way there already.