The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A VeggieTales Message

Our kids were never really "into" VeggieTales until the past year. While they don't watch much, often when the TV is on we try to make selections which offer some sort of lesson. I was pleased to learn today that not only has VeggieTales come out with a new video but it is in partnership with Show Hope and Stephen Curtis Chapman. We've supported this ministry in the past and are continually impressed with all their efforts and achievements to help orphans globally and enable thousands of families to adopt.

It's A Meaningful Life includes an adoption story and more.

From the sounds of it, we will look forward to adding this one to our Friday Night Movie repertoire.

A Right Hook Or A Kind Nudge

I'm working on it.

For a person who claims to be blunt and who neglects to sugar coat things, I fall victim to speechlessness. I can often think up savvy, sarcastic, educational explanations a few minutes after the fact but when I'm caught off guard I often feel like that cartoon character who's bottom jaw drops to the floor.

I met up with the brother of an old friend yesterday. I'd not seen him in years but he's a great guy, from a great family, and he is very very bright. He's liked, and well educated. He's a godly guy and so to say he understands the grassroots of adoption would, I hope, be an understatement. I would also say he's worldly. Up on his current affairs. His parents are from Ireland, he's lived in Brussels, the US, and now he's back on home turf.

After reacquainting and reintroducing ourselves yesterday we took a brief walk down memory lane, catching up on the happenings of some mutual friends...specifically one who now lives in the States with his wife and their several (!) children. Let's call this mutual friend "J", shall we.

As we briefly talked about our contact with J, the topic of his many kids came up. It's inevitable. He has an amazing family. He has a trans racial family. He has an internationally and a domestically trans racial family. So many cultures and heritages wrapped up into one surname it would make your head spin just a little. And you might just stand in awe of the grace, love, compassion and authenticity that makes up this family.

And then he said it. My friend's brother took the plunge into faux-pas-land. And I cringed and self-talked faster and more in one split second than I have in quite some time.

He used those wretched know the ones..."real" and "own" juxtaposed with children.

He unknowingly brought my assumptions about his probable IQ drastically down.

You see, J and his wife domestically adopted siblings. A short while later they conceived and gave birth to their little girl. Shortly after that they adopted another little boy domestically and then proceeded to adopt their youngest son from Uganda. Seriously. Amazing. Hearts wide open. Full of love and grace and all that falls amidst those two.

And none of their children are any less "real" or any less their "own" than the other - regardless of how they became theirs.

So here's where I fall tremendously short folks, (no pun intended if you've ever met me). I am not a small talk, shoot the breeze kinda gal if I am meeting you or reacquainting with you after many years. I am a factual and concrete conversationalist. You know: who's doing what, when and how, now.

So, how do I smoothly incorporate "so how are your parents?" with a little "yes, we are adopting from Ethiopia and she will be our daughter as much as our sons are our sons, you twit" in the mix?

I have always thought it would be easier once she is here. And, I still believe that. It will be much easier to pick my child up, give her a gentle tickle under the arm to hear her giggle or a hug around the waist, and then ask the individual who just put his/her foot in his/her mouth how on earth they figure she is not real or my own.

I'm going to chalk my conversation yesterday up to naivety. In the same breath I realize it is and it was my responsibility to set the record straight and perhaps offer a Coles' Notes version of the correct use of terminology.

I also realize I should be offering the benefit of the doubt to all. And I need to find my eloquent phrase and brief explanation - because most of these encounters and conversations are brief and one offs.

I also understand that I need to figure out my mantre in these situations as I'm just not that great at saying "you're an idiot" politely.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Half, In Prep For The Full 42.2km

Nine short months after having baby number two, something possessed me to run a half marathon. Perhaps it was the thought of a couple other friends training and running the full, or perhaps it was the sheer motivation to prove to my ego that I still had "it". Training of course started months before the blessed day and the sense of accomplishment was definitely worth it.

Training, while time consuming and exhausting wasn't horrible. I had to pace myself and run the race for me, on my time, taking one step at a time, though some paces near the end felt like they might be my last.

I finished well.

I feel that our first leg (pre-bankruptcy) mirrors this race in many ways...hard but not insurmountable (what's 10 months of waiting at this stage in the game?), tiring but not exhausting in the way that a 23+month journey can prove to be. Something that would warrant little consideration before wanting to do again in the near future.

Fast forward exactly two years and something even more inexplicable (oh wait, perhaps there was a bit of motivation) possessed me to run the full 42.2km. I can say it was one of those times when doing what had already been done (the half) just didn't seem like it would be accomplishment enough...for that time.

So, training started.



Sometimes (often!) slow runs.

Hours of training.


Gatorade (yuck).


I recall a good two months before the race I felt that in some ways I would never be ready. In the same breath I didn't know what I could do to prepare any more or any differently. Let's be honest, you can either complete the 30+km training route or you cannot. There's no gray area in that one.

Fortunately for me, I had built up endurance and self talk and the iPod was doing it's job satisfactorily as well. Yet there was still a wait ahead of me. There were more weeks of training, more wearing of the Nikes, more ounces of sweat to be shed.

This, all in preparation for something I mentally understood but in my heart I couldn't fully grasp. Who can truly grasp and rationally accept the thought of putting one foot in front of the other thousands of times throughout one continuous several hour period?!

Fast forward to the day of the race...the first 8km are always the hardest for me. I don't know why. Call it me mental. (You could do this based purely on the fact that I was out there in the first place.) Those first many are just really tough. Once I push past it's free flying until, oh say about kilometre 34.

At 34 the going gets tough. I hit a bit of a wall...and the body starts to groan.

And I think that's about where I sit right now.

In this journey.

We're around 34...perhaps pressing on towards 35/36 after the past week of encouragement.

Some are moving past us. They've received their referrals...for numerous reasons: greater age requests, longer waits already behind them, and other factors of which I will never be aware.

Some are still behind. Perhaps they started slower (paperwork or financial hold ups often the uncontrollable - which is the most frustrating of all), maybe they were closer to the end of the pack when the starting gun went off...because in races such as marathons and halves, there are herds of us and we cannot possibly all step over the start line at the same time. People would die. Chaos would prevail.

Here we strut. Continuing on along the hills - up and down, little and big. Often it's the downhill that can be the hardest, as victory - the finish line - is so close we can often nearly see it on the horizon, over the next peak, across the bay...yet it is only within sight.

We can't quite grab it.

As with the marathon, we must continue on. Perhaps the pace is slower while we walk (the joints, emotions, and other aches can be overwhelming) but it inevitably picks up from time to time and the emotion, the exhilaration, it makes it all worth it - and it is these moments - these tangible dots along the timeline of our lives - which carry us through to the next incline or bend in the road.

The expectation and firm knowledge that there is a finish line and we will cross it - these are the understandings which allow us, enable us, and force us to ignore the aches, to forego the depletion that often is kilometre 34, 36, 38, or 40. We know it is there, as we have seen others cross it, having felt the exhaustion we feel at our current place. The anticipation that there is the reason (one of the many) we continue on and is enough (simply because it has to be) to keep us going until we hit that 42.2km finish line.

And while it could be that final 0.2km that feels the longest, it is there.

The finish line does not move...though we may often feel that it does.

It's fixed.

It's distance from us is most certainly finite.

It won't move.

Though we may not see it from our current place in the race, it remains.

I don't know where to find our finish line, nor how long it may take us to get there...I don't know how many more aches and groans we will feel. Certainly a few. Yet, I rest on the understanding and the firm knowledge that it is there.

I have seen too many "coincidences" to know that you don't reach the end just by chance, fluke, or laziness. We reach the end by seeking, praying, patiently waiting (and then some more...about a billion times over), knowing confidently that there is a higher power - a God...mine, actually, who planned this marathon out...step by step...ages ago. He aches when we ache. He rejoices with us (and long before us, actually). He does all for good. And when we are attacked He hears our cries, comforts us, carries us, and reminds us that His will be done.

And all we need to do is continue to confidently, patiently, daily, put one foot in front of the other until we cross the finish line.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Closing In

Can you feel it?

That crisp fall feel in the air?

It's sneaking it's way in to those early morning sunrises and those after supper playtimes.

Day by day it wriggles into the dew on the grass and the chill in the air just a teeny bit more than the one before.

It's closing in...the end of summer is near.

Our summer will climax at it's very end: starting this Sunday to be precise. It will peak for an entire week and then, as if imitating a firecracker it will BANG and all will cease.

All will be silent.

And the knowledge, recollection, and sheer understanding of the fact that nearly 4000 campers inhabited, dwelled, lived, grew, were changed, found life, sought more, were offered something they couldn't have - in their wildest imaginations - ever imagined possible will be but that: mere knowledge.

Like waking from a dream, within a split second the atmosphere will morph.

It's an unexplainable phenomenon, our end of summer.

So, while doing our best, (now that it seems we've exited the horridness that was our flu-filled-four-walls) to enjoy every last minute of the sun, we headed off to enjoy what was supposed to be a hot morning. It was a slightly spur of the moment mini-adventure and it was wonderful.

Another morning at the lake.

It baffles my mind...

the way this small three year old...

has gone from timid...

to intrepid...

all in one short summer...

without so much as a nudge in...

he now takes pleasure in being the first, and making the biggest splash.

And this sweet, small five year old boy...

is king of the crawlers...

through sheer determination...

he has mastered the art of quickly, quietly swimming his way to the dock...

without so much as a...

"look at me go!"...

he persevered and presses on...never to be pushed around or made fearful of the deep blue beneath him.

Now let's pause a moment while I share with you about this man.
Words could never adequately explain or do justice to my feelings for him.
He is the one who, daily, many many times reminds me he thinks I am beautiful.
He is the one who tells me daily of his love, his devotion, and his desire for me.
He is the one who has my heart and who holds it gently, carefully, unconditionally, each and every single day.

And that was our little family's little adventure to the Lake one final time.

And it was lovely.

3am Ramblings

Before I mutter useless curses at the cricket outside, I must remind myself of the blessing of living somewhere in this populated planet, where our land is large enough and grass thick enough, and surroundings silent enough that I can hear even this small creature in the wee hours of the night. I am thankful.

I just wish it wasn't a 3am sort of thankfulness.

Truthfully however, if there is a reason to be awake at such an hour, this one (my dear cricket friend) is much better than that to which I have been privy over the past 72 hours.

It's been a bit of a go around here. I can now officially claim no fun in cleaning vomit off one small five year old's top bunk at midnight. (As if that needed to be made official in the first place.) The poor guy managed to perfect his aim into "the bowl" during the course of this flu but it wasn't a fun feat to accomplish. And unfortunately in this case, as with many things in life: practice did make perfect.

I can also claim that having a body which will happily reject an unwanted flu bug via the top half of one's body would be phenomenal. I must master the art of throwing up in my lifetime. Let's call it some sort of twisted goal, achieved only once before. Ever.

I have never ached the way I have this week. This evil bug got hold of the eldest sweet boy and his Mama and raged until it could rage no more and we thought it was done...only to have it come back for one more small kick at the can. Here's to hoping it is truly gone and that it is one to which you do not fall victim. I never knew the follicles of one's head could ache but I am now here to proclaim: they most certainly can.

I have felt much to say recently but with no words. Prayers. Utterances. Nothing forming full thought, sound, and intelligent wording has come to mind so while I guess it is safe to say that while I am back to blogging I feel it could be more sporadic than in times past.

Briefly I will share I recently finished up a book shared by a friend who is a transracial Mama herself. Her kids are a bit older as is the book and while the concepts weren't new to me, examples shared and scenarios offered were enlightening throughout. While it may often be repetitive, I don't feel we can ever educate ourselves enough on raising healthy children: black, white, yellow, purple, or green. It's a responsibility that comes hand-in-hand with the privilege of becoming a parent.

Raising The Rainbow Generation would be a good read if you're looking for some education on raising your children in a multi-racial world, in a healthy way.

There have been several referrals over the past 6, (okay, it is 3am) 7 days now. I'm pleased as it means paperwork is being completed and documentation is coming out of the offices it should be coming out of. However, with the exception of one, all referrals thus far have been for older (and) sibling children. And, while I whole heartedly believe that this process is about so many things and is so multi-faceted that beginning such a monologue would certainly not do it any justice at would be truly exciting to see some of those who have been waiting for over 24 months for their infants, to become family.

I believe each and every child deserves the opportunity at a healthy, happy, dignifying life. And my prayer is that those who have been waiting so very very long will see their patience come to fruition. The recent announcements have been encouraging (!) nonetheless.

So now, while my friend outside seems to have silenced himself...perhaps he has found slumber, I shall try and go do the same.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fourth Annual

Our summers are full.

Busy with a ministry that may as well be happening overseas.

Crazy simply due to the fact that we are a family with two small children.

There are adventures, trips, and memories that many families may make over the summer - and only over the summer - which they consider priceless. And, I have no doubt that they are. Camping, road tripping, backyard tenting...these are all a part of it.

For us though it doesn't happen in long overnight or week long adventures. Our summer traditions and memories take place in short bursts. And I feel they are just as priceless. We don't have to wander far from our own backyard to make memories which the boys request annually and which warm my heart when I think of them.

Interesting, that while our summers are busy for a not-so-common reason, and at the end of the day we all crash and I often think: wow, where do they get the energy...I cannot wait to add to our sweet little family. I yearn to feel that we are all here.

I honestly, truly make the most of our time as four, knowing, praying, wanting, aching to be five.

And so one day - one sweet God-only-knows day - we will be five.

Until then, we will continue to enjoy and create our memories and traditions as four.

Isn't that what summer is all about?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

...And Later That Day

I prayed for a specific sign today.

Down and, well, not Out know...I prayed that I would see something, hear anything that would be an obvious "yes, Ashleigh this is your journey...the one for which you were pre-destined" answer.

A couple of hours ago, a referral was given. Not ours. One that, while it affects us it doesn't affect us at the same time. Several months ago, many families requesting siblings also added their names to the list of those of us requesting singles. Several of them have had files in Ethiopia since early 2008, which therefore places them ahead of us on "the list". We don't know who they are and what their requests are for, as they aren't on any list we can see.

I wasn't aware of this referral request but it was for a family who did just this. When they decided to place their name on the singles list, they requested either gender between the age of 0-9mths. Their referral just a few hours ago was for a baby girl who was born in March.

I don't think it gets too much more obvious.

I still feel this is a battle. I still feel exhausted. My heart doesn't leap anymore when I read the words referral. There is joy. Oh, is there ever joy. But the excitement which one would inevitably anticipate, no longer comes. The fear of yet another hurdle lurks in the shadows.

So continue to pray.



Because, our God speaks and moves and performs millions of miracles daily.

But I am a simple follower.

Faithful though not always confident, bold, or strong enough to stand strong in it alone.

Here's to dozens more.

Referrals for girls and boys.

Referrals for babies and toddlers and small children alike.

Here's to a battle fought.

Here's to a battle being won.

One small soul at a time.

(Apparently I'm back into blogging...)

Ups And Downs, Ins And Outs, Frustrations And Elations, Anticipation and Exhaustion

I'm not sure where to start.

I posted a few days ago my excitement at the fact that our 2yr homestudy update is now complete and should have at this time reached Imagine. Pat on the back Ms Type A for getting this bad boy out the door a mere 5 or 6 weeks early. I was not, in no uncertain terms going to allow for any delays on my watch. For a few fleeting moments I felt the same high as on Sept 23, 2008 when our dossier arrived in Ethiopia.

I was suddenly thrown back in to present day and the knowledge that though there was a great little flurry of referral activity several weeks ago...several weeks ago. We are now in no man's land again and drought-ville is getting this Mama down in the dumps.

I know, I know people that referrals are on the horizon. There are many in wait. They are sitting there needing a bit more documentation. I realize we are signing (have signed?) a contract with a new orphanage. In my mind these are all really really great things.

But the question still needs to be asked: How Long?

How long does one wait for "the next best thing"?

From a...
  • bankruptcy to creditors meeting
  • creditors meeting to a restructuring plan
  • restructuring plan to a voted acceptance from the majority of families
  • from acceptance to re-accreditation
  • from re-accreditation to re-established orphanage and other Ethiopian relationships
  • from re-established relationships to referrals
  • from referrals to a ban
  • from a ban to new legislation post-ban (let's not forget the second trip policy established during this time)
My heart is weary.

My mind, in my rational mind I know that patience is the name of the game. That we are on the brink of movement. That I must must must keep the faith, as I've been reminded many times over.

I also know that, as was commented by a good friend the other day after a post that I believe in whole-heartedly, "there are no orphans in the world, Satan wants them all". I know this. But my heart aches and breaks and screams at the injustice that is this wait. And I do believe it is a battle between good and evil. And I do want to kick Satan's a%&.

And I do want win. We have to win.

But right now I'm down, out, frustrated, and exhausted.

So perhaps a little prayer. Could you offer a little up on our behalf? Because I'm not sure how much longer I can be up, in, elated, or excited. What I do know is that there is a little girl out there whose face I do not know, whose name and age I am not aware, but who is meant to be ours. Whose body I am meant to hold tight. Whose heart will be mine to protect. And for whom I must stand steadfast in this some days excruciating journey.