Monday, April 30, 2007

Taking a Thorough Assessment

Last Friday morning, Kris and I took the three new Longs to the International Adoption Clinic for their (very thorough) health examination. Sparing you the exact details, let's just say that it was very thorough. It was nice to have an interpreter present to help explain to the kids what was happening and why mom & dad would just sit and watch these people (in white coats) poke and prod and prick. On top of that, we discovered that 2 of the 3 were in the middle of an outbreak of Chicken Pox. And then a discovery that actually encouraged us to do a really complete "spring clean" as an extra precaution. (Just in the nick of time we believe!) This morning, we completed the first round of appointments with a hearing assessment and a quick psychological evaluation. (Although he hesitated, the psychologists did not yet think Kris and I were crazy!!!) There will soon be vision tests and teeth pulling, and other assorted invasions for these kids. While driving back home afterwards I got to thinking... this whole adoption thing is absolutely amazing! How do we explain to the kids that we are doing this because we love them and we want to properly care for them. It's not as if we will send them back if we find something that's unpleasant! Actually, that will just help us love them more. And then it hit me...How God uses this real life analogy to teach me more about Him. He is truly Amazing!

You see, years ago God adopted me into His family. Before the adoption was complete, and in His own way, He had done a very thorough assessment and He knew what I was full of. He loved me too much to leave me in that condition, and even though I did not completely understand what was happening, He started the process of "spring cleaning" in me. I was full of parasites and other things the world had to offer and they were all eating away at my insides. But God had compassion on me... He wasn't doing this to see if I was worth keeping... He had already made up His mind that He was keeping me! That was planned long before I was ever in my mother's womb. The adoption was final and God was not surprised with what He found in me... I'm thinking He expected it to be there. He was big enough to deal with it and get it out. His plan included that as well... in fact, it included full health and complete restoration!

In the adoption world, "Disruption" is the word used to describe an adoption gone bad. An example of a disruption would be when the new parents decide (for whatever reason) that they no longer want this new child (children) in their home and they change their minds. While the adoption was final, it really wasn't, and the kid (kids) are once again removed from a home only to be placed in another... hopefully... maybe.

And so you see what God is teaching me through all of this. God doesn't disrupt! Ever! When He brings someone into His family... and all come through adoption now... He never ever disrupts. He has promised to be our Father forever. He has promised to meet our every need. He loves us and has compassion on us in spite of the junk inside of us. He continually pours out His grace and mercy on us even though we don't always follow His ways. For me, this builds hope and strength and courage and peace and stability. This allows me to flourish and develop as I am meant to develop. God is forever cleaning me and washing me and caring for me! He is an AWESOME Father! I pray all 7 of our kids find that hope and strength and courage and peace and stability that comes through the Father.

Do you know Him? Have you experienced His love and affection? Even though you might need a little cleaning right now, have you allowed Him to speak to you about your potential in Him. Do you trust Him? Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me." There's an ADVOCATE that helps in your adoption... Have you allowed Him to wash you clean? Is it time for a thorough assessment?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Back to Work in the Basement

Now that we are getting settled... at least we think we are getting settled... it is back to work on some home projects started before the trip. Although Aaron has been in his new bedroom for several weeks by now, we still have lots of work to do to finish out the rest of the basement for our new rec room. I'm getting bored with the whole thing, so I thought I would bring in a new construction team to help. The picture below sums it all up!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

True Confessions about the Bottom Line

Okay, it is time for me to get "real." By vocation, God has me in the marketplace as a business consultant, trainer and executive coach helping bring a solid, biblical foundation to people and organizations so that they can discover the true purpose of their lives and businesses. At some point in the relationship, I always get some form of the question... "Yes, I understand that is what God says, but what about the bottom line?" Along the way, it seems that God has blessed many of these clients with an increased bottom line... AND with increased peace and time and balance and hope and faith and trust. For some the results have been truly miraculous and mind-boggling. So what does this have to do with adoption and our family?

I can only speak for myself - not my wife, or any other person (husband or wife, dad or mom) that might be considering adoption. Somewhere we have to take into consideration the "bottom-line." If your household is anything like my household, you don't have $20,000 or $30,000 or $40,000 just lying around taking up space, waiting to be invested in adoption costs. I didn't have the bottom-line I "needed" to afford these kids a new home and a new chance at life. I was working to provide for and meet the needs of the 4 already at home.

Adoption is not cheap. It comes with a high cost. And the bottom-line is that those costs continue to increase once the adoption fees are paid. Bottom-line is that getting them home is not even close to half the financial struggle. My wife has a favorite saying... "Life is expensive!" The reality of adoption... "Adoption is expensive!" ... and it is just a part of our life. Bottom-line is that there are 7 kids in our house that need a chance at life... (Not all that life has to offer since so much of what life has to offer is undesirable...) but a chance at life nonetheless. Of course, we are only in the early stages of our adopted kids joining our bio kids at home. It will only get more expensive. School assessments and curriculum (we home school), dental appointments, doctor appointments, gas, groceries, water bills, toilet paper, hair care products (I'm thinking random head shavings could become common practice!!), did I mention bananas by the bunches, the list goes on. And the bottom-line is that all of this has to be paid for with actual currency of some sort. I actually get upset every now and again at just how much it does cost to live in this world and raise a family.

But God... I so much love the many passages of Scripture that start out this way... You see, the bigger bottom-line is that God is able. God knows it is not cheap and God knows that it will only get more expensive. There are no secrets with God. God knows that most of us do not have the finances for adoption costs collecting dust in the corner of our dresser. Bottom-line is that I am not able to provide for 7 children... But God! Bottom-line is that (this is real to Kris and I) we had absolutely no way to come up with the upfront costs for adoption... But God! Bottom-line is that I have no idea how we will afford these kids moving forward... But God! Bottom-line is that God has never made a calling on anyone's life without first having made provision for that calling. Who does God borrow from? God owns the cattle on a thousand hills... God knows all of His children by name... God knows and has named the stars that He hung in Heaven. God will use any means He desires to make the provision for the adoption you are considering.

Bottom-line - I was correct and am still correct... I have no way to pay for or afford this adoption and I have no way to continue to meet the financial needs that are coming. But God! Bottom-line... neither do you, and if you let that stop you, you will fall into the same trap that so many have fallen into that will leave nothing done in the life of 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 children. God is in the business of growing His children, and generally that means that I need to learn to trust Him more. And that's the bottom-line!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Turning 7 and 911

Today was full of activity, as everyday has been thus far. We had house projects to start/complete! We had lots of beautiful sunshine to enjoy! We had lots of family activities going on all day. Two significant items stand out...

1) Our sweet Kate turned 7 years old today. What a day it was for her. Two new brothers and a new sister that she just met last Saturday for the first time. It doesn't seem that long ago that we first met Kate when the doctor handed her to us. What a joy she is! The party included Grandma and Aunt Kelly & Uncle Charlie, and a friend from next door. Chicken grilled just right and hamburgers also. Ice cream cake - 2 more friends joined in with us for this part - and everyone signing happy birthday. What a day!

2) Joseph is learning his numbers somewhat. He was attempting some math earlier in the week. It seems he is a quick learner- today he was playing with the phone and punching in some numbers much like one would do on a calculator. Immediately after he placed the phone on the table, it rang back, so I answered. The 911 operator asked me about the emergency that was just called in! It seems that she was not able to understand our little Ethiopian who had just dialed 911!!!! After explaining the situation and telling her how sorry we were, Kris had to repeat the same story for the nice policeman when he arrived. I think the math lesson was very effective. He appears ready to move ahead with the next lesson.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Home Again... First Days

Here are a few pictures of our first days back home. God has been so faithful with our safe travels and new adjustments. And we have the reassurance that He will no stop being faithful anytime soon!

Top to Bottom:
  • Joseph beside his new bicycle - he couldn't wait to ride it and learned how in about 15-20 minutes. Now he's off around the block 15-20 times a day!
  • Jenna is helping Brooke on Max's new bike. Be patient my child... it will come!
  • Former little sister turned big sister Kate holds her napping little brother, Max
  • Ellie and Max as his Sunday afternoon nap continued. Lucky guy!
  • Aaron gives Brooke a ride as Joseph investigates his new surroundings.

If I can get this video thing figured out, I will be posting some video soon to share more of what our first days have looked (and sounded) like. Meals have been an adventure, not knowing what foods the little ones will eat, and not knowing for sure how to communicate that they must try what Kris places in front of them. Joseph as been a tremendous helper as his English is good enough to help us in this way. We are working to establish and settle into a routine. Be patient my children... it will come! (God keeps reminding me... He must know about my patience, or lack thereof.) Blessings to all!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Coming Home...

Today, we are coming home. What an experience this has been! We are so grateful to God for His many gifts to us. Kris and I, and our new kids are anxious to be home in America, and yet we are sad to leave. One of the last stops we made was for a little swimming today. (See Photos.) We are tired and worn out, and yet we have energy that doesn't end as God continues to bless us with so many wonderful people that take such good care of us. This has been a trip that is hard to describe in the short moments we have on the computer. More details will come as we settle in at home. God Bless!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More Pictures

We had just had lunch... our first American meal away from the Guest House since arriving... Pizza and French Fries... the kids ate like they loved it... then we spotted these fun rides and all three took a turn. I would have gotten on the elephant, but I think it may have been its last ride ever!

Monday lunch

We had a wonderful meal with service that was out of this world! People that want to serve can be recognized in similar fashions around the world I suppose. These ladies took great care of us. It is so good to have our children with us during these times. Joseph Yonatan Befkadu Long is able to help us with our language skills... he is very good at translating for us. We have learned much about him that we will share when we return. Many surprises about his life thus far!!

We are learning many interesting customs... watching the kids wash hands before and after each authentic Ethiopian meal can be quite an experience. Watching them brush their teeth at night before bed is simply amazing! They brush forever with no regard to the water soaking their clothes... or anything else nearby. It is like nothing I've ever seen. I am eating well, Kris maybe not as well as I. (Eating well has never been a problem for me in the past... to me it is good food made in a different pan!?!) Just today (two days after the actual meal) Kris discovered that she had eaten Ox. She simply stated that she had never eaten ox before, as it is too late not to eat it. (She secretly liked it very much!!!) Since I'm on food and customs... In America we eat off of our own plate while spreading out around a table. In Ethiopia, we eat off of the same plate as we sit huddled around a small stand (the name escapes me) and we occassionally feed the person next to us or across from us as a sign of love and friendship. There is much relationship in these meals; true friendship!

We have seen more rain than we care to see! Everyday we have had rain. I have never seen so much mud. Imagine a large city with many hills and many half finished roads... and many of those that are finished are made out of rocks and dirt. Since sleep has been a little difficult, we decided to stay up past 1:00AM last night/this morning and talk with the other couples staying at the guest house. As usual, Kris and I were very quiet and really listened to everyone else most of the time! Today we went to Lake Hora(sp?). There are many things happening there that I will not write about. All I will say is that it would be a good spot to locate a ministry of some sort.

Kris will write about the kids and other details. She's a great mom, and it shows with the kids already! All three of these kids will need lots of love... for two of them, most of it in the form of discipline(although we can hardly keep from laughing right now!) Hello to all of our family and friends tuning in. There will be more coming later. We love you and miss you! Got to go for now... "Where's my coffee?"

Meeting the kids

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

First Picture!

This is Aaron. I have been posting everything since my parents have been in Ethiopia. This is the first picture that my dad sent me.


Totally Amazing!!

There is so much to share and so little time. I apologize about not having any pictures to send yet. The phone lines have been down and many of the internet cafes have been closed. Finally thery are open again. GREAT NEWS!!! Yesterday's appointment at the Embassy went very well. Everything was approved with no questions of us. Not the same for everyone. All will be fine in due time. Yesterday, we went out in the morning and had lunch out as well.

It's crazy... after 3 days, Kris and I find ourselves talking in very short, 1-2 words sentences. (Imagine that for you-know-who=:)) Full sentences like... "you like." or "Walk." or "Photo?" We are even talking like this to each other. Deep communication like this could be very good for our marriage!!! (Just kidding!) The kids want to take all the photos... all except for Mintesinot... he just giggles and smiles and is generally ornery! We actually have to ask the kids to NOT be so helpful! Weird!? They truly want to please us. When does the honeymoon end? I wish our bio kids could see and experience what we have seen and heard and smelled. These are beautiful people, proud people! And God is doing some amazing things here. One of our drivers goes to a church of 2 million members. They never come together as they are focused on working in the streets. The may gather 10,000 - 15,000 at a time. I asked this driver about his testimony... He shared as we drove through the city streets... God is trully working in the lives of the people here.

Today we had our driver (Getachew is wonderful!) explain to the kids that we want to give them American names as well. They are all in favor... except the little guy... he first said "no" then said "yes" and just giggled. We have learned more about their background and we will post after we get home. Yesterday we went to visit the orphanage they were in before coming to the care center. God works miracles! Kris and I almost couldn't speak. Leaving was very hard for us and our new children, let alone the children and workers we left behind. We will post more after we get home. We have some amazing video and pictures to share. I can't wait to get the means to share them with you all.

We are holding up well, in spite of little sleep. Sunday night sleeep was good, but Monday night we added three kids to our room. The kids were out like a light. Put them in bed and turn off the switch and they were quiet... well, except for the little guy. I sang him to sleep. Once we put the kids down we either sit and talk with the other families or just go to bed. Monday night I moved to the couch as there is not enough room for us all in the one room. Kris switched with me around 4:00 AM or so. I remember being awake all night. Somehow God is providing need rest for both of us.

Today was a big outing... shopping in the markets, stopping by a coffee shop/cafe for some refreshments. You should see the kids drink tea(chai)! We'll be needing to buy some tea and become tea drinkers when we get home. We prepared our lunch at the guest house and then I walked to this Internet Cafe. I hope to be back later today with more to write and photos I can share. Until then... We love you all and miss you.


Monday, April 9, 2007

We're Here!!!

God is so good! We have arrived in Addis, and we have met our new kids.Praise the Lord! This message must be very short and quick. Kris and I went this morning to meet our new children... I sat by the back window of the taxi, and as we pulled into the care center, our children were waiting with anticipation. Yonatan found me right away in the taxi and hugged and kissed me through the back window. Then he brought his sister and brother to the window and they hugged and kissed me as well. This all before we got out of the taxi. We were overwhelmed!

Today we filled out more paperwork (gag) and then taxied back to the guest house (Addis Kadan) where we are staying. Everyone has been so wonderful and accommodating! These people are so nice and respectful!!Kris and I had some time with our children in the guest house before going back out for a traditional Ethiopian lunch with new friends. Ourchildren are very helpful. They want to serve us and take lots of photos. I walked to an Internet Cafe to send this message.

We are so excited to introduce our three new children to their big brother and sisters back home, and the rest of their new family and friends. They will love you and have already asked about you. I will try to send more later. We just wanted you all to know we are here and all right, and the children are with us. Many Blessings!Our cup is full and overflowing!

Praise Jesus!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Kris and I are packed (almost!) and we are set to leave. How do you fully prepare for a trip like this when it is something you have never done? We will discover when we get there whether or not we have everything we need. All of your prayers and encouragement over the last year will come to a new revelation when we meet our kids for the first time on Monday. We can't wait to share this moment with you. Here's a close up of our kids as they wait for us to come.

God promises that we will have everything we need in Heaven. How do you fully prepare for this trip when it is something you have never done? My best answer is to place the preparation in some capable hands - hands that are proven to be able to get you there. Hands that have prepared the trip for many others. Hands that are constantly ready to prepare the trip for more. Hands that belong to the One who said He was "the way, the truth and the life!" Are you packed and ready to go?