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Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Ugly-Beautiful

As I read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, it once again (as it does every time I pick it up) touches my heart. I sat last night, thinking about our babies, the newest, smallest ones in particular. In my thankfulness to have these little lives in our home, I also hurt over them. How can it be that something I am so thankful for, something I look at with such joy, can be the same thing that someone else looked at with contempt, desperation, even hate? Enough to discard, to throw out, to dump.

Then, I read today Ann's words. Looking at...."the mess of this world, and I see - this, all this, is what the French call d'un beau affreux, what the Germans call hubsh-hasslich - the ugly-beautiful. That which is perceived as ugly transfigures into beautiful."

What some people, most likely the birth mothers of these babies, saw as ugly, not worth keeping, a burden or hinderance, I see - and God sees - as beautiful. And what a joy, privilege, and humbling blessing it is to be a part of the beautiful. The circumstance of God raising these babies up on His wings, as eagles, and setting them on higher places, redeeming their lives from the pit.

I am thankful. I am beyond thankful. I have seen the grace (charis) that God has bestowed upon these little lives. I have seen the eucharisteo in this situation, this season of my life. And now I experience the joy (chara) in it. I find true joy, the heart-filling, all consuming joy in what He is doing around me. How He moves someone else's ugly into my - into His - beautiful.

Annabelle's life - dropped into the dark depths of a pit latrine, literally into the filth and waste of this world....brought to a higher place of peace and love.

Winnie's life - wrapped in a plastic bag, dropped by a fence, made to look like trash being discarded on the walkway....brought into the open daylight as a precious piece of life.

Noah's life - set aside, dropped off in an unfinished, abandoned building where he himself was abandoned, to be forgotten by the one who birthed and nursed him....brought into a home where he will forever be remembered.

And each of these little lives, will eventually be an even bigger part of someone else's beautiful, their joy! Oh, what joy a family will have when they one day welcome these precious ones into their family as true gifts! My heart wells with a fulness of joy when I think of the possibilities that lie ahead....these little ones being a part of the healing of a hurt family suffering from childlessness, or being a part of the growing and multiplying of a family's love. Being a part of a future.

"The ugly can be beautiful. The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace."

These little babies are a picture of lives, situations and circumstances transfigured into something beautiful.

"Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things - take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness."

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Welcome Baby Noah

We have a new baby boy!
We got a call late yesterday that a two week old (approximately) baby boy had been found in an abandoned building structure. We eagerly went to the police station, excited to pick up this little life that another person had seen as dispensable.
And what a gift he was! It simply breaks my heart that his own mother, or father, or whoever it was who left him alone in that abandoned, unfinished, open-air building, could not see the precious gift of value that this little life was!
But now, little Noah ("peacemaker") is in a safe home. He is being loved, cared for, held and hugged. And will continue to hold and hug him for as long as the Lord keeps him in Haven of Hope.
We are happy to have you in our home, little Noah!
Noah with "big sister" Annabelle
And just as the Lord would work, this gift comes the same day that one more baby, Joseph, was submitted for adoption approval.

19. Baby Girl sleeping in her princess dress for the second day.
20. And Easter card from Gran to Julia...evidence of her being loved as a great-grandchild.
21. A Cadbury egg, knowing that my friend thought of me.
22. Tiny baby boy with eyes wide open.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Sick Princess

Poor Baby Girl is sick. She spent most of the day sleeping, but in a moment of feeling somewhat perky, or at least awake, I asked if she wanted to put clothes on. She looked into her closet where I was standing, saw her dress-up clothes from Aunt Janet, and said, "I want to wear the princess dress."
As Rachel (as if she were one of my own, personal Friend) would say, "When you're sick, you do whatever you can to make yourself feel better." (Name that episode, Susan!) I am not sure if it worked or not, but she has had it on all day and does not want to take it off.

And if the princess dress doesn't help her feel better, maybe my Raggety Ann and Andy "sick sheet" will. This is the sheet my mom always gave me to cover with when I was sick as a little girl. I was not often sick as a child, but every time I was, this was my comfort sheet. My mom sent it to me a while ago.
I am not sure it this makes Julia feel better, but it does warm Mommy's heart. When tears stream down her face, though she is not even crying, my eyes well with tears as well at the reality that I am a mom and  we are creating our traditions, even if they are traditions not under the best of circumstances. 

Sweet Baby Girl has been cuddly all day. When I leave, in a matter of minutes she calls me back. I was letting her try to eat on her floor nap mat earlier today. She called me and said, "Mommy, come. Sleep with me and feed me Wheatabix." And she meant it literally. She wanted me to lay down with her, reach around and feed her her cereal. 

I am also sick, and in a coughing fit, she reached up and touched my face.
(Julia) "Let me feel your face. You feel okay, Mommy?" 
(Me) "Yes, baby. I just have a cough like you."  
(Julia) "We be sick together. Mommy and Julia, we both sick together."
(Me) "Yes, sweetie, but we will feel better real soon."
(Julia) "Yes, me sweetie and you be better soon, Mommy."

Isn't she the sweetest?!

15. Sweet baby hands wrapped around my neck in a hug.
16. Comfort wrapped in Raggety Ann & Andy sheets.
17. 7-minute emails!!
18. Boys chasing puppies - puppies chasing boys.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FINALLY!!!! We are official!

Six weeks shy of two years ago we began the registration process for Haven of Hope Baby Center. Today, I got this in the mail.....

Did you catch that? Do you see that "APPROVED" word in the middle there???

Yes, we are finally officially registered. Whew. What a wild road that has been. Thanks for all the prayers over the past months.

Now, let's just pray that getting Julia's passport is not that long of a process.
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Monday, April 25, 2011


Susan said goodbye to the babies a few days ago, but she will say goodbye to Julia and I tomorrow when she flies back to America.

Susan came here four months ago to be a part of HCO for a few months. Susan worked at an adoption agency in America with an international foster care program before coming to Kenya. Now, she returns to America to pursue her master's in social work.
Susan came with great background experience, a desire to serve, and a knowledge base that was a perfect fit for her time with HCO. She has been an absolute gem, more help than I can even express! And her timing was perfect. While here, Susan....

* helped teach the knitting ladies how to knit,
* held babies,
* helped with the adopted babies' socialization process,
* washed countless dishes,
* helped organize the filing system in the HOH office,
* developed relationships and share the love of Christ with the knitting ladies,
* loved, hugged, and played with little ones,
* picked up the boys and brought them to the baby house for weekend fun days,
* developed observation forms for parent-child bonding,
* helped prepare adoption files,
* talked through countless problems with me, helping find solutions,
* wiped noses and changed thousands of diapers,
* helped to develop the women's program,
* became "mama" to little Annabelle and bonded during all-night feedings,
* sorted through & acted as "quality control" for the women's project,
* loved on aunties,
* ate ugali & sukuma,
* helped review, analyze and approve adoptive parent profiles,
* helped me make more decisions that I can count!

....just to name a few!

I am so thankful for Susan and all she did to help at HCO. She has been a great help, a wonderful friend, and a loving auntie. She will be greatly missed!
Thank you, Susan, for all you did. Thank you for pouring yourself into the lives of the little ones, the ladies, and the boys. Thank you for being Jesus to so many. You are greatly loved and will be remembered always.
We pray the Lord's blessings on you as you go, and we look forward to seeing you back here in a year, working as our very own social worker with our adoptive babies. :-)

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Letters to Julia - Happy Easter!

Dear Julia,

You looked beautiful today in your pretty Easter dress. I just wish you felt better so you could have enjoyed it more.
You are one blessed little girl to have a Nana who sends you some beautiful things. Since Mommy cannot pick out your Easter dress and your special clothes, Nana sends a few and then we get to choose. We tried them on the other night and this is the one you refused to take off. In fact, Papa told you on the phone that it was time to take off the dress and put your pajamas on. You told Papa, "But I want the blue one. Not pajamas. It is blue dress time, not sleeping time."
So today you have worn your blue dress all day long! We went to church this morning at Karen Vineyard, then to Mr. Eric & Mrs. Tracey's house for Easter lunch. You even took a nap on Simon's bed and you were such a good girl.
Easter is such a hard concept for you to understand. We have had some pretty funny conversations this week. But I know that one day you will understand and you will rejoice in the celebration of Jesus' resurrection!
Happy Easter, baby girl! I love you!


More photos from our Easter....

12. Julia's joy in Easter basket treats.
13. Finding her first Easter egg on her very own.
14. Watching Eric cutting the turkey, wearing His Kenya flag apron, which has become a holiday-in-Kenya tradition.
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Oh, Glorious Day!

Be blessed this beautiful Easter day!
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sad Goodbyes and Beautiful Babies

Susan said goodbye to the babies today. It was a sad day.
Susan has been here for almost four months, my right hand. I cannot even say how much I will miss her! She has been such a great help, and I am not sure I would have survived these past few crazy months without her.
Susan's goodbye to Annabelle was tough. Annabelle has been hers from day one. Susan has been a wonderful mama to Annabelle, sleeping with her, caring for her, knowing her schedule, her needs, her cries and her coos.
They are both blessed to have had this time together.

And Annabelle's little sister Winnie is just as precious! They are now two and five weeks old. And they are beautiful.

10. Winnie snuggles.
11. Watching Annabelle look at Susan with knowing eyes.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Gift of the Lord's Supper

Last week, before I opened my new favorite book, One Thousand Gifts, I wrote in my journal:

“The fullness. The fullness of You. The completion in all You have to offer. That is my desire. Life, so much more than what I give and take from it. Teach me the reality of You in my life…to the fullness.”

This is the story, the gift, of how the process of knowing His fullness has been coming alive to me in the past few days.

My intern, Susan, and I went to the Maasai Mara for a few days before she leaves to return to America. L It is one of my most favorite places on earth. The vastness and greatness of God and His creation is all around. There is no escaping the fact the He is there! While at the camp, we were in the gift shop and I saw something. Something much like what I see at every tourist shop, outdoor market, gift shop. Wood carvings. I saw a wood carved wine glass that instantly looked like a communion cup. I told Susan, “I want a communion set.” I have for years, but have just never bought. I wanted to have meaning, not just randomly buying it. So, I didn’t buy it and did not think any more of it.

Until I read on. I read about the eucharist (the communion elements) in a whole new way. Or maybe I have heard it before, but this day, it was fresh. Newly alive. And right in the middle of Easter week. In those thoughts of “One Thousand Things to Do Before You Die,” what is it that Jesus does? In His last hours, what does He most want to share with those He dearly loved? The Lord’s Supper. Sharing of His life.

“And he took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them.” (Luke 22:19)

THAT is what He gave them as His “parting gift,” if you will. Those last words to leave them with. That last symbol to remember Him by. And we call it the eucharist. (The word eucharist brings back childhood memories from my acolyte days at St. Paul Methodist and sweet Mrs. Hulme.)

Eucharist = “he gave thanks”

“The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning ‘grace.’ Jesus took the bread, saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks….Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But is also hold its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy”…

“Charis. Grace.
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.
Chara. Joy”

“Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo – the table of thanksgiving.”
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

At the table of our Lord. His parting gift. The thing He saw as the utmost of importance with which to leave us. Himself. 

Isn’t that it? The fullness that I was writing about just days before? Christ Himself. It is a gift of grace. Given with thanks. Bringing true joy.

Suddenly, my brown wooden carved animal cup and plate become so much more to me. A reminder of the fullness of joy that He has to offer. 
And I am thankful. 
For all things.
In all moments.

“And he took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it,
and gave it to them…”
(Luke 22:19)


On this Maundy Thursday, as we are reminded of the Last Supper and prepare for Easter, may you be blessed in the fullness of His gift to us. Himself.

6. A lone acacia tree in a sea of gold grass.
7. Boys laughing and chattering in Kiswahili outside my window.
8. Teenage boys & tiny aunties with heaping bowls of rice & green grams.
9. Making flashlight shadows outside with the boys during a power outage.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

We have all seen the books like “1000 Places to Visit Before You Die” and “1000 Things to Do Before You Die.” Could any of them compare to “One Thousand Gifts”?
 A book that is sweeping Christian circles has been sweeping my mind with a refreshing anticipation of what the Lord has to offer. I have been so incredibly encouraged by this book and just can’t help but share, even though I know that half the blogging world is doing the same. 

So much of our lives are often spent looking for more. More of what? More of the things we think will bring us happiness, peace or contentment. But what if the possibility that the fulness of life and all that God has to offer us is already within our reach, right in front of us. What if what we think we are looking for isn’t really want we want?

Always desiring to know God more, to know the depths of His love and purposes for my life, I sit in the quiet morning hours before Julia wakes and have my time in His presence. Sometimes being overwhelmingly filled with His peace. Other times, going through the motions of reading and writing, trying to check off my boxes before I hear the little one call, “Mama....Mama....it’s morning time.” But every time, with the subtle push to know God more. Then I leave that chair, go hug my baby and get her out of bed, and go on about my day. I continue my conversation with the Lord through the day, sometimes more shallow and surfacey, sometimes with deep connection. 

What I do not do is recognize Him in all things. That He is all things. That He gives all things. And in giving all things, He offers us life. Abundantly. In the next few days I will share an amazing thought process that was revealed to me through this book. But skipping past that process, I land at the point of looking at the world around me with different eyes, or wanting to, at least. My goal is to not leave God behind in the red chair , wrapped in the fuzzy warm brown blanket when I get up in the morning. I want to see Him in my life, giving me the gifts He has for me. He longs to lavish His love on His children. And He already has. Are my open to see them today? 

I could go to one thousand places before I die. I can do one thousand amazing things before I die. But will my eyes be open to seeing the one thousand gifts He gives me each day?

Like so many people “out there” in the Christian woman blog world, I want to look for those gifts. Every day. I may not share them all here, but I want to share some. It is a way of being accountable. A way of giving something to my daughter when she is old enough to see and understand. A way of highlighting the fact that God is in this place that is sometimes so filled with turmoil. A way of consciously recognizing and acknowledging that He is here, arms full of gifts. 

As I posted the other day, I pray that I never take for granted the simple (or big) gift I have of being in this amazing place. And this is where my list of one thousand gifts begins. 

  1. Hearing those priceless words, “I love you, Mama.”
  2. Elephants on the horizon.
  3. Wind blowing in my face as we roam across grassy plains.
  4. Diet Coke fizzing up in a cold glass of ice.
  5. Sunset in the Maasai Mara.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

The Heavens Declare His Glory!

I am blessed to be in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I am awe struck at the beauty God gifts us with, and I pray I will always be thankful for these “kisses from Jesus,” as my mother would say. 

“For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”
(Psalm 108:4)

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Hopey comes to visit

I can hardly believe that it has been one month since Hope left HOH to go live with her forever family. Though we have missed her terribly, it was great to see how happy and comfortable she is with her new mother. They seem perfect for each other.
Hopey has grown in just one month! She seems like such a big little girl.
It was fun to see that Hopey is 100% Kenyan, complete with typical "special day out" baby attire.
Thanks for coming to visit Hope and Mama Hope! See you again next month.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby Update - Jeremiah...I love this boy!

This little guy has been with me since Day One of Haven of Hope Baby Center. I remember the day we brought him home. He was so small, wearing 0-3 month size clothes when he was really 10 months old. (We had been told he was six months.)

Oh, has he grown! And oh, how he has gripped my heart! Our number of babies coming and going is growing. I really do not think that my heart is becoming hardened, and I do not think I am putting up unnecessary walls, but I do think that God has been teaching me the healthy boundaries of connections with them. No matter how I guard my heart, I still love them all so much! But there will always be something special about our first babies - Lizzy, Julia and Miah.
Jeremiah is a special boy. When he is happy, he is melt-your-heart happy with a smile that stabs right through. When he is not happy, well, the whole Rift Valley Province of Kenya can probably hear.
He has a real talent, too. Miah did not learn to walk slowly. He went from his first steps to running within about three weeks. He could jump with both feet off the ground months before he turned two. And from a year and half old, he has been able to play football (soccer) and kick like a pro! He drop kicks, never misses a target, and he can kick while running without missing a beat. This kid is good.
A big decision is being made about Miah's future this week. He has already been approved for Kenyan adoption, but tomorrow his file will be presented before the international approval committee of the agency we are working with. If he is approved, then we can see the prospective parents' file. I can't wait to see what God is doing here!!
We love you Miah!
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