Family Picture

We had my sister-in-law snap a quick family picture today at a picnic. Our first as a family of 5. I think we look pretty good ... if I do say so myself!

Things are still going well. Felmata is a joy! He remains happy and fun and full of energy. He doesn't like going to bed, but neither did Noah and Ella at age 3. He experienced his first boat ride last night. The waves in Lake MI were big, so Paul took it kind of easy; that is until he heard Felmata yelling "YESSSS!" and clapping with a huge smile. This kid has no fear ...

We're looking forward to a quiet week at home filled with more firsts.

It has been such a cool thing to watch Noah and Ella interact with their new brother. They have so much fun with him, and yet have a healthy amount of protection as well. It is very clear that they are older, and he is younger. There have been a few times when I think they've wished he could get back on the airplane (like the 45 minutes of whining because I cut his sandwhich in half, or the times he gets into THEIR stuff). But, for the most part, they seem happy to have Felmata join us. When I asked them if it's like they imagined, they both said "no" ... "it's way better". I kind of have to agree!

I am so proud of each of my kids. God has blessed me in more ways than I can count. We are giving Him all the glory for the smooth transitions in our home.


What kind of country is this?!?

It's naptime so I'm taking a precious few minutes to open my computer and post an update. Noah and Ella are at camp this week, so Felmata and I have been having a great time getting to know each other. I keep waiting for the tantrums, the frustrations, illness, anxiety, and all the other stuff we've been warned about. What I've experienced so far is smiles, hugs and lots of giggles. OK, and quite a few tears at the Dr's ... but what 3 year old doesn't cry when they get shots?!?

When I think about all the "firsts" Felmata has experienced in just a few short days, it makes me realize what a huge transition this is for him. Because of his easy going personality, I quickly forget how new everything is. Riding an escalator, learning to pedal a bike, jumping on the trampoline, getting immunizations, playing with Edi the dog, swinging, clean pajamas and bedtime stories, wrestling with Daddy, flushing toilets, cold (& warm!) water out of the faucet, going to a playground, neighborhood friends, taking a bath ... with bubbles!, eating at McDonalds.

I laughed out loud as Felmata slowly slowly savored his french fries, ketchup and chicken nuggets. When every last morsel was gone, I handed him the Happy Meal toy. The look on his face said it all ... You mean I get all this yummy food and a TOY too?!? How can that be?!? What kind of country is this??

When we were leaving the lodge in Ethiopia, heading toward the airport, toward Felmata's new life, I had tears on my cheeks. Although the poverty is overwhelming, although his life in Africa was so hard and provided no hope for a future, although he didn't have clean water or enough food or a safe place to rest his head at night; he did have a culture. He was part of a group of people who loved each other. He was a part of a country that loves their children in ways that America can't even begin to understand. He belonged. He was cherished. He fit in perfectly.

In our world of fast cars and fast food and glitz and glamour, and rampant materialism, it's going to be easy to lose Ethiopia. It's going to be easy to get sucked into the America that we see everywhere we turn. Some of it so good, and some of it not so much. Like the lady at Meijer yesterday who asked me "where did you get him?" I think next time I'm going to respond with "Ebay".
As Felmata grows and explores and hopes and dreams, I'm going to continue to pray that he doesn't lose sight of where he came from, that somehow, someway, he can become part of us, but also remain a part of them. I'm going to pray he becomes all that God has planned for him.
And I'm pretty sure, even after only a few days together, that God has very large plans for this very special little boy.
I have to pinch myself to be reminded that I get to be a part of it!


It's GOOD to be Home!

What a week it has been! Without a doubt ... the longest week of my life. So many emotions. So many unknowns. So many ups and downs and fears and joys and sadness. So much poverty. So much injustice. So many smiles and laughs and hugs and answered prayers. It has been a long week. For now ... I'll just post these pictures. It is so good to be home!


News From Ethiopia

Here is the latest email from Jess & Paul. According to their travel schedule, they should be in the air now on the 7,000+ mile flight back to the U.S. (Washington D.C.) Can't wait to see them safely home with Felmeta!

We all slept fairly lightly but the sun is now up and we’re going to make it through this day. Paul is feeling a bit better. We have nothing to do today except sit around, so hopefully the rest will help Paul. We have a very long 48 hours ahead of us. Thanks for all your prayers. This has been quite the week, and we know we couldn’t have gotten through without your prayers and the strength of God.

On a brighter note, Felmeta is one amazing little kid! He woke up this morning by crawling into our bed and saying “Mama!” “Papa!” with his bright happy smile. This little boy is going to fit right into our family.

Can’t wait to see you all soon!!!!!!!! Tell Noah and Ella we miss them so much!!!

Paul and Jess


Update from Ethiopia

Hi-This is Julie, Jessica's sister. I received this email from Jessica today.....

Hi Everyone!

We have had a busy 2 days! We were able to have a wonderful, very emotional meeting with Felmeta’s birthmom yesterday. Her story is Felmata’s to share someday, but we will say this. She is a beautiful woman filled with courage. We have very big shoes to fill.

Today we were able to pick up Felmata from the orphanage. What a GREAT day it has been! We have never seen a child with such a large smile, or so much energy! He talks and talks and talks and we have no idea what he’s saying! Yet he just keeps on chatting and smiling. We are in love! He is already starting to repeat English words that we say, and when we held him for the first time he said “mama”! “papa”! Clearly the orphanage prepared him very well. We brought a long a toy airplane and he seems to know he’s going on one soon.

We’re getting dinner soon, then calling it a night. We’re hoping he sleep well.

Thank you for all of your prayers. I am feeling a little better … kind of frustrating to not be 100% feeling good, but God has given me the strength exactly when I’ve needed it. Please keep praying that I feel better soon.

We (I) miss home so much and can’t wait to come home on Saturday. Africa is a wonderful place, but I miss Michigan. Not sure when we’ll be able to email again … the power just came on and had been out for a long time.

Love you you all!
Jess & Paul

Ps If you happen to see Noah and Ella please tell them we LOVE THEM and can’t wait to see them soon!!


Here we GOOO!

Our bags are packed and we're ready to head out this weekend. This past week has been filled with fear, peace, excitement, fear, peace, excitement, fear, peace, excitement ... you get the picture!

There were a few tears last night (just from me) as I realized that would be the last sit down dinner at our table with just 4 of us. It feels a little bittersweet to be saying "good bye" to our family as we know it. I remember the feeling well just before Ella was born. And, oh my, I can not even IMAGINE life without that child now. How blessed we have been!

Today we are relaxed, and feeling so comfortable and at ease with the whole entire thing. We know that God is with us, in fact He's gone before us, and if He is for us who (what!) can be against us?

We have been touched over and over and over again by the kind words of encouragmenet, love and support from our friends and families. We feel overwhelmed by the people who have surrounded us and who we know will be here waiting with open arms when Judah comes home.

Our hearts are full & running over.

Thank you for your prayers for safe travel, absence of fear & smooth transitions for all of us.

Here we go!


List is almost done...

Our lists are getting checked off. We're almost ready to go! We received word today that Judah passed his TB skin test, so we officially have the green light to travel.

Another family we are planning on traveling with had not so good news regarding their girl's tests. We're praying that their chest X Rays are negative, and that they can travel on time!

I promised a pic of Judah's room, and now that it's complete, here's the photo... All it needs now is a smiley little 3 year old boy!


Independence Day

Happy 4th of July to all my blogger friends! We've had a great weekend! We spent both Friday and Saturday on the boat with friends. This morning we had the annual Bush Beach Bash, complete with lots of yummy breakfast foods. We watched fireworks last night from the lake. We've roasted marshmallows, hot dogs, grilled burgers over charcoal, drank ice cold beer from the cooler ... summer in Michigan is the best!

With all the freedom in the air, on this the 4th of July, my mind naturally drifts to ... Africa. No surprise there! I'm putting the finishing touches on Judah's birth mom's photo album. We are going to be able to meet her while we're in the country. This is something I feel so blessed to be able to experience, and yet so overwhelmed by. I hardly dare even "go there" in my thoughts. How am I going to be able to sit with this incredible women? How am I going to be able to look her in the eyes, see the love for her son, and rationalize the injustice in this world. It is pretty safe to assume that life has not been kind to her. What does freedom look like to her? Surely she didn't ask to be born into a country where there is a 70% illiteracy rate. I can not imagine, if given the choice, she would live in a world where HIV is eliminating an entire generation of her family & friends. Surely she didn't ask to live in poverty the likes of which I've never even seen. Surely she didn't choose to give birth to a beautiful boy, with the hopes of relinquishing him to the care of an orphanage. Surely if she had even a little bit of freedom, she wouldn't be where she is right now. And so I think about her

with tears in my eyes

and pray that God will give me the words to express to her how sorry I am

that she doesn't have the choices I do

and pray that God will allow her to sense

just a little bit of how much I'll love this child

how much he'll be a part of our lives, our hearts, our hopes and our dreams

somehow ... someway ... I pray she'll get just a glimmer of hope in one of the choices she was able to make ... the choice to trust us to give him the best life we possibly can