Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keep Changing The World

This song makes me think of all of you who played a part in raising over $5000 for the kids at Trees of Glory!



Saturday, December 18, 2010





I'm so thankful to have been a part of this fundraiser. My favorite part of the whole thing is the realization that when we all work together, great things are possible.

When we were in Ethiopia in January, and again when Nick travelled with Hopechest in September, one of the most amazing things we experienced was the fact that so little of "our" money could make such a big difference in the lives of the people in Ethiopia.

Nick witnessed children being transported to a clinic, examined by a doctor and receiving treatment for life threatening infections for just $7.50. He also discovered that $3 US dollars could feed a person in Ethiopia for 3 days. We of course know what $34 can do when donated through Hopechest-the assurance of consistent meals, an education, Christian discipleship and the hope of a better future for a child in need. These are all pretty insignificant amounts of money for most of us. For the children being sponsored, it is life changing.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child at Trees of Glory, contact Karen Wistrom at You can also check out Hopechest's website for many more opportunities to give back at

Of course we welcome anyone who would like to kick in the final $270 needed to complete this fundraiser (2 hours left)!

To everyone who has contributed to this project, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! You have been the hope for these very special kids and have truly made a difference in their lives.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Since my last post, we've had that Christmas miracle I was talking about. Our total is now:


That's 85% of the needed amount to protect the land at Trees of Glory!!

With just ONE day left to place an order(tomorrow-Saturday the 18th) we just may close this fundraiser out!

What an awesome Christmas gift that would be.

Thanks so much to all who have contributed thus far. A special thanks to my Aunt who has been working hard to assemble and mail all of the cards out and my mom who has been making trips to and from the printer to pick up over 150 cards that have been ordered! We'll be working together to finish up any last minute orders on Sunday and will be sending them out on Monday for those who order this weekend.

We are a little less than one cow short ($890) of meeting the goal of raising $5600!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I've been trying to avoid spending too much time on the computer these days as it can be quite distracting and time consuming. So, I spent the day with the kids reading books, baking cookies and playing outside in their tree house. I turned on my computer tonight and was overwhelmed with emails from generous donors! As of tonight, the Christmas Trees of Glory fundraiser has brought in


What a difference a day makes (and it also helped that the sponsorship coordinator posted about the fundraiser on her blog today:)

I was hoping to make it to $2000, and today's donations have brought us all the way to 56%!!!!

I'm so excited to be closer to the goal for Trees of Glory. Just a little over $2400 to go. Who knows, with just 2 days left, we might get a Christmas miracle and totally meet our goal of $5600!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010




Tuesday, December 14, 2010





Above are pictures of my aunt's sponsor child Dege and our sponsor child Meseret. These are their original sponsorship photos. Last month, Karen the sponsorship coordinator and her team had the opportunity to meet them and all of the other kids at Trees of Glory and deliver care packages to them. After just a few months of receiving prayer, consistent meals, going to school and receiving letters and pictures from their sponsor families, the transformation is amazing. This is the hope that sponsorship brings.

Now that all the kids at Trees of Glory are sponsored, we need to work hard to improve their living conditions and meet some immediate needs. One such need is to protect the property that Trees of Glory is in danger of losing.

The "CHRISTMAS TREES OF GLORY" fundraiser is helping to provide supplies to build a barn that will house the cows necessary to graze the land at TOG. If the land is not in immediate use, the Ethiopian government will confiscate it and give it to someone else. This land is vital and it would be devastating for them to lose it.

So far, $1685 has been donated to the Trees of Glory livestock fund! Thanks to all of you who have donated-you are truly making the world of difference for these kids.

While we will continue to advocate for the funds necessary to complete this project, the Christmas Trees of Glory fundraiser will end on December 18th (that will allow us enough time to deliver any cards that are ordered by Christmas).

So, if you've got a couple of last minute gifts you still need to find or just feel led to donate to a worthy cause this Christmas season, know that your donation is helping to provide hope to kids like Dege and Meseret and nearly 100 other kids at Trees of Glory.



To make a donation for the Livestock Fund:

Make a donation at (go to the site, click on the orange GIVE button on the far right side at the top of the home page)

Under "Gift Information," click on "choose a fund" and select "designated gifts"

Then write in your gift amount (if you're giving gift cards to more than one person, just add up the total amount to be given and write it in the blank, then when you email me, just clarify the number of total gift cards needed-that will save you from having to make multiple donations)

Then (this is the important part) under the "notes field" be sure to add in the Trees of Glory Livestock Fund code which is "ET2119000 LIVESTOCK."

Finally, add in your info and follow the prompts to complete your donation.

Once you complete your donation, send me an email at with your donation amount, your mailing address and the number of gift cards that you need and we'll send it out to you within the next few days. So that we are able to get the cards to you before Christmas, please make all donations prior to December 18th. If we have not met our goal by then, we will continue fundraising through other avenues, but the gift cards will no longer be sent.

Friday, December 3, 2010



That's how much has been donated to the Trees of Glory Livestock fund so far! That puts us at about 23% of our goal. Thursday night, my mom and aunt and I (we all have sponsor kids at TOG) got together to make some of the cards. I really like the way they came out. Each card will be sent with an envelope stamped with a cow that the donor can address as they wish. Background information about Children's Hopechest and TOG are printed on the back of each card along with an explanation of the livestock project and the impact it will have for the kids at this care-point. I'm excited by the thought of how many people will be receiving Christmas gifts this year that are helping to change the lives of these kids.

While Karen and her team were in Ethiopia last month, she said that the land officials were actually at the care-point discussing the land with the in-country staff. The staff reiterated the importance of utilizing the land and the urgency of this need for livestock to graze the field.

If you are a Trees of Glory sponsor or just want to help, please consider posting this link to my original post that details how to make a donation to your blog or facebook or even via email. The more people that are aware of this need, the faster Children's Hopechest will be able to provide the resources necessary to secure the land at TOG.

Remember, $900 buys a cow and the barn can be completed for just $1100
$4290 to go !!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Couldn't get through this one without tears. This so clearly explains how easy it is fall in love with a child through pictures and how a heart can ache for a child that has yet to be seen in person.

It is an eye opening call to our responsibility as Christians. How can we continue to hear statistics about orphans and hungry children and sleep peacefully at night? Listen carefully to the definition of "depraved indifference"- a condition that is naturally born in all of us.

I pray that this message will move all of us at the heart level and that it will inspire action for the cause of the fatherless.

Defending the Fatherless,


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giving Thanks and Advent

Thanksgiving Day 2010

My girls!

The feast-Hermela especially LOVED the ham and turkey (such a carnivore).

We have much to be thankful for this year and every year. In the course of eight months, God has blessed us with 2 new daughters and one on the way. Not often you get to add three kids to your family within a year!

During the school week leading up to Thanksgiving, we had the kids list the things they were thankful for. Hermela said "food" and Meron said "a family." Pretty telling what's important in life for them and for all kids. They just want a family to care for them and love them. We are so thankful for all 6 of our children and for God's many blessings to our family.

The kids are so, so excited for Christmas. We've added a few new traditions this year. We gave them all their Christmas pajamas this morning on December 1st. I'm going to try to continue giving them their pjs on the 1st each year. We've also started to celebrate advent with nightly bible readings, and an advent calendar and wreath. Each morning, the kids ask me how many more days until Christmas. They've all loved decorating the house, picking out a tree, seeing all the ornaments and lights and learning about the Christmas story. It's so fun to see their excitement.

Sweet Colton picking out a tree just his size. Camo Caleb on the hunt for the perfect tree.

We have a winner

Seeing the ornaments-Hermela was so excited!

Decorating for the first time.

This poor branch was close to the ground and right in the front, so it took the brunt of the decorations (I did have to do a little rearranging).

Angel goes up (note the brace-Meron broke her same collar bone-again:)

All my cuties in their Christmas pjs (only Hermela and Meron's fit-Caleb, Caroline and Colton's are from last year-all of their new ones were too big)

It's the most wonderful time of the year!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ordinary Hero Offers More Fundraising Options

Ordinary Hero has added two more items in addition to the T-shirt fundraiser to help families raise money for their adoptions. Below are pictures of the items along with links to give you all the details. We will receive $10 for every T-shirt, $10 for every tumbler/coffee combo, $5 for every tumbler (without coffee) and $5 for every ornament sold in our name. Remember to add Jessica and Nick Irvin in the instructions to seller add section during check out so we will receive credit. All proceeds will be sent to our agency to offset some of our travel expenses.

just 1 day left

Thanks for helping us change the world for one!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Great Post on Giving Gifts to Jesus

A blogger that I follow posted this link on her blog about the way another family does Christmas-gift less. At least gift less to themselves. They've made it a point now-thanks to the simple comment of their 5 year old son (10 years ago)-to give gifts back to the Lord in place of gifts that they would have received.

While our family still exchanges gifts, it's an eye opening post and has further inspired me to make this season about Jesus and not stuff. It makes me even more excited about our Christmas Trees of Glory fundraiser and the change that it will bring for the kids there. I love the idea of really making a difference for someone else and meeting their needs for Christmas instead of my own. I hope you also find her message inspiring.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


So, here it is. Your big chance to join with me and the folks at Children's Hopechest to impact the lives of 84 needy kids in Ethiopia.

The video that I posted yesterday gave a shocking statistic. Americans spend 450 BILLION dollars year after year after year buying stuff each Christmas. Usually, the stuff purchased is a luxury item and often it is forgotten by the new year. This year, we have the opportunity to give gifts that matter and have an ongoing impact.

Trees of Glory needs funding to construct a barn to house 5 cows. The cows will graze the land that is at risk of being taken back by the government, thereby fulfilling the land use requirement and protecting the land. Remember, this land is a vital piece of property at TOG as it separates the school from an existing well. It's a pretty simple solution to the problem. One that doesn't sound very heroic. But, for people who struggle just to survive, this is an insurmountable hurdle and it will make a big difference for them.

That's where you and I come in. For just $1100, Hopechest can purchase the supplies needed to construct the barn. Hopechest has estimated the cost of each cow to be about $900. So, for about $5600, the land at Trees of Glory will be protected. This project will not only protect the land, but it will also provide a sustainable food source and good source of protein from the cows' milk and give the care point a potential income source.

While $5600 may sound like a lot, let's break that down a bit. Like I said, I'm not sure how many people read this blog, but even if just 10 blog readers made the commitment to pass this information on and worked to raise a tenth of the money needed, that would only be $560 per blogger. You wouldn't be committing to giving that much money, just to spreading the word, advocating for these kids and inspiring others to give a gift that really matters this year. If your blog reached 10 people who committed to spreading the word and encouraging donations, the need would be met if each of those bloggers raised just $56 each. So you see, if we all work together, the larger sum becomes much more manageable.

So what I'm really hoping is that at least 10 of my blog readers will respond and commit to advocating for these kids over the next month through your blogs, emails and/or facebook pages so we can get this money raised ASAP for Trees of Glory.

So here's how the fundraiser works. We're calling this fundraiser "Christmas Trees of Glory" because we want you to look at your Christmas lists this year in a different light. Think about your part of that 450 billion that Americans will collectively spend on Christmas gifts in 2010. Now this year, instead of going to Target or Toys R Us, do some of your shopping online by making a donation (of any amount) to the Trees of Glory Livestock Fund (all donations will be given directly through Hopechest's secure website).

You will then receive a gift card like the one pictured below (designs may vary slightly) and an envelope for each of the donations that you make. So, if you want to make a $5 donation for 5 of the people on your gift list (think teachers, co-workers, relatives, friends...), you'll donate $25 to Hopechest and then email me at to let me know that you've made a donation (that way we can track the donations and make sure they are allocated properly to the livestock fund). Also include your address and the number of gift cards/envelopes that you need and we'll mail them off to you. The back of the card will briefly detail how your gift will impact the lives of the kids at TOG.

Pretty simple right?

To review:

Make a donation at (go to the site, click on the orange GIVE button on the far right side at the top of the home page)

Under "Gift Information," click on "choose a fund" and select "designated gifts"

Then write in your gift amount (if you're giving gift cards to more than one person, just add up the total amount to be given and write it in the blank, then when you email me, just clarify the number of total gift cards needed-that will save you from having to make multiple donations)

Then (this is the important part) under the "notes field" be sure to add in the Trees of Glory Livestock Fund code which is "ET2119000 LIVESTOCK."

Finally, add in your info and follow the prompts to complete your donation.

Once you complete your donation, send me an email at with your donation amount, your mailing address and the number of gift cards that you need and we'll send it out to you within the next few days. So that we are able to get the cards to you before Christmas, please make all donations prior to December 18th. If we have not met our goal by then, we will continue fundraising through other avenues, but the gift cards will no longer be sent.

I know that's a lot of information all at once. If you have any questions, please email me.

I'd also love for you to send me a comment if you are planning on posting this information on your blog or other outlet just so I can have an idea of who's participating. Feel free to copy any information posted here and encourage your blog readers to post it on their blogs so that we can reach as many readers as possible.

You can be creative in your advocating and even do other fundraisers of your own (ie. bake sales, garage sales, raffles....) to raise funds. The goal is to raise all of the funds. How we do it makes no difference.

I've been praying about this fund raiser for several weeks and my biggest prayer is that God will work in amazing ways and that all glory will be His.

Happy Blogging!!

Let's be the hope for these kids this Christmas!!!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Why do you blog???

Two years ago, I didn't even know what a blog was. I stumbled upon them after searching youtube for Ethiopian adoption videos. I wanted a glimpse of what our family might look like, how that experience would feel, what our lives might be. Before I knew it, I was hooked into this world ("Blog Land" as my husband calls it) that serves many purposes.

For me, I started our blog to chronicle our journey to our girls. It then grew into a great way to highlight events in our family's life (I'm not much on picture albums). After we got home from Ethiopia, I wanted this blog to serve a bigger purpose. I wanted it to be a place that brought awareness to the orphan crisis and a place to advocate for change-and eventually bring change.

I've seen great things happen when bloggers join together, so I'm issuing a challenge to all those who may come across this post:


Tomorrow, I'm going to post about a great opportunity to come together for the cause of the orphan. As you know, we sponsor a child at Trees of Glory-a care point in Ethiopia supported by Children's Hopechest. This is a newly sponsored care point located on a beautiful piece of property. Unfortunately, the land between the school buildings and the water well is at risk of being taken over by the Ethiopian government. We have the opportunity to protect this land for the 84 destitute kids that are being served at this care point. It is a big project and will require a big effort. I often tell our kids, "many hands make quick work" and I'm praying that we'll have many hands on deck tomorrow when I post the details.

Tomorrow, we'll kick off our CHRISTMAS TREES OF GLORY fundraiser.

I don't have any idea who reads this blog (outside of some friends and family). All I know is that if those of you who do read it team up with me by first praying, and then passing along the information that I have, it will make a huge difference for the kids and staff at Trees of Glory.

As we enter into the season of Christmas, I pray that we will start spending less on things that matter very little and start spending more on things that truly matter.

Take a look at this video. It totally puts American "Christmas" spending into perspective. While this video promotes clean water projects (certainly a worthwhile cause and one of the pressing needs for TOG), the immediate need at TOG is to first keep the land that they have. Take a peek and get inspired.

Check back tomorrow to see how you can be the hope for one!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where's Your Calcutta???

It's an interesting question really. I'm going to answer that question by asking another one.

Do rich Christians care about the poor?

I guess I should first define rich in order to answer that one. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than seventy five percent of the people in the world. That's all of us I'm assuming, which puts us all in the top 25%. Now, if you have running water and a means of transportation, that bumps you up to the top 15%. Pretty eye opening statistics if you ask me. So all though we may not think of ourselves as rich, we are. Almost by virtue of living in America, we can claim this truth.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture of discontentment and comparison, so we often miss this fact. As I've mentioned several times before, the book "Radical" by David Platt has been a pivotal book in my life and has prompted many changes in our family's life and in the way that we view ourselves and the way we view the poor. One verse quoted in the book was Mathew 19:23-24 in which Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Previously, I would have skimmed this verse, assumed I wasn't a rich man (or woman) and kept reading. But I now understand that I am the rich man, as are the vast majority of Americans. American Christians are some of the wealthiest people in the world and the bible says it will be hard for us to enter God's kingdom if we don't wake up and make some changes in the way we care for the orphans and widows and poor living around us and around the world.

This is inspiring news to me as it has given us a greater purpose allowing for life outside of consumerism and accumulation. It has opened my eyes to needs I never use to think about like the need for orphan care, both through adoption and through sponsorship and the need to care for the widows and the poor and the sick. I now think of money spent in terms of "how many kids that could have sponsored for a month" or "how many people could have been fed by that one dinner out or new pair of shoes or trip to the movies.....

If we are the rich, then where are the poor? The answer of course is that they are all around us. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, the homeless, kids in foster care, families living in shelters (in our own cities), widows in nursing homes and orphans around the world-millions and millions of children without families to love them, beds to be tucked into or regular meals to nourish them. They are all around us yet all too often, we walk past them without a second thought. We sit back and say, "but what can I do?" or "can I really make a difference anyway?"

I'm reading another book now by Shane Claiborne called "The Irresistible Revolution: Living as Ordinary Radicals." The author set out on a mission in college to find "true" Christians living in the world-people who were actually following Jesus and living their lives out for Him. The list was a short one when compiled, but topping it was Mother Teresa. He had the life changing opportunity to serve along side her in Calcutta, India among the sick, the outcasts, the orphans and the dying.

One of the things he mentions about the poor, is that they do not exist because there is not enough stuff to go around. God did not make a mistake and give too much to some and not enough to others. In fact, Deuteronomy 15 gives a glimpse of the source of poverty.

Claiborne sites that the passage starts by saying "there SHOULD be no poor among you" :

4 However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.

to saying "if there are poor among you":

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.

to "there will always be poor":

11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

The world is our land and we are commanded to be openhanded toward those in need. Claiborne argues that the great tragedy in the church today is not that rich Christians don't care about the poor, but that rich Christians do not KNOW the poor.

This could not have been more true for me and Nick. I don't believe that we ever consciously ignored the poor. I believe that we let the distractions of "our" busy lives cloud our priorities. I praise God for the gift of our trip to Ethiopia and for allowing us to see such extreme poverty and suffering. It rocked our worlds and life will never be the same--and it shouldn't be.

After we returned home, the feeling of needing to do something was overwhelming. The problems are too big and it's hard to know where to start. In the "Irresistible Revolution," Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, "We can do no great things, just small things with great love. It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing it." This is a lesson I've had to learn this year. I'll never solve any of the world's problems-that's not even my goal. The goal is to love others as Christ loves and to do it all in His name so that He gets the glory. If we are serving with the right intentions, others will be drawn to God, not to us. Our acts of service should be done in love and to Mother Teresa's point, it's not how big the thing is that we do, but the fact that we do something.

We are blessed to have experienced adoption and to be in the process again. We are also grateful for the opportunity to sponsor our sponsor child Meseret at Children's Hopechest's care point at Trees of Glory. It is not a "great" thing to sponsor one child. It takes little more than what we spend on a meal out to feed/clothe/educate and meet her medical and spiritual needs for one whole month. Yet, this one small thing done with great love makes the world of difference for her.

Having served most of her life in Calcutta, Mother Teresa is also quoted as saying, "Calcutta's are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta."

God has clearly spoken and our Calcutta is Ethiopia. We are grateful for the opportunity to sponsor a beautiful Ethiopian child, and to be able contribute to projects at Trees of Glory that will further support her and the other children and allow for them to hopefully break the cycle of poverty amongst nearly insurmountable odds. More importantly, we have the opportunity to spread the love of God to these desperate children through our small acts of great love.

A Children's Hope Chest team will leave tomorrow to work with and love on the 84 kids at Trees of Glory along with the children at Kind Hearts (another Ethiopian care point). I am eagerly anticipating pictures of our Meseret and seeing first hand what a difference it makes for these kids to know they are loved and that their basic needs will be consistently met.

While Nick was in Ethiopia in September, he was able to visit Trees of Glory and meet the staff there. Trees of Glory is situated on a beautiful piece of property with enormous potential to serve this needy community. Unfortunately, the piece of land between the school and the water well is not being actively used at this time and TOG is at risk of losing it. Ethiopian land laws allows unused land to be confiscated by the government.

We are excited to work with the Trees of Glory coordinator Karen Wistrom on a capital project that will protect the land and prevent it's loss. It is a big project that will require lots of us working together with great love to reach this goal.

I'll post details in the next few days about the project and how you can make a difference in the lives of over 80 vulnerable children while at the same time checking off some names from your Christmas list. What better way to honor Jesus' birth than giving gifts that matter to Him. Stay tuned for how you can get involved by spreading the word and spreading the love.

You'll be helping kids like Meseret know they matter. Please also keep the Children's Hopechest team in your prayers as they leave tomorrow for Ethiopia.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Adoption Fundraisers

Seeing that today is Orphan Sunday, I thought it appropriate that we get the word out about some of the ways that you can help us bring an orphan home.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have sent our dossier and our immigration paperwork which means that God has faithfully provided every penny that we've needed so far for our adoption in just two short months. Two months ago, we didn't even know "R" and now, we're moving closer to bringing her home.

God has provided the funds through family, a grant and through friends. Each time, the money came at just the right time, even down to our dossier fee. A dear friend of mine, not knowing that we needed the dossier fee, wrote me to say that her family wanted to donate to our adoption fund. The donation was exactly what we needed to send our paperwork off! I couldn't help but cry as I called Nick to tell him. It's just so humbling to think that God cares so much about this adoption and that sweet little girl waiting for us. Our decision to follow Him on this journey has been clearly confirmed over the past two months and we're so thankful that He has chosen us again to raise one of His precious children. We know without a doubt that God's hand is guiding us and that He will continue to provide for our adoption.

The next portion of our expenses are travel related. We'll have to purchase plane tickets for two trips and a return ticket for "R" along with some additional in country fees for the embassy, visas, "R"s medical exam, lodging and food... With plane tickets ranging from $1400 to $2000 a piece, it adds up.

November is Adoption Awareness month and a great non-profit that I've mentioned before, Ordinary Hero is doing a fundraiser for families that are in the process of adopting. It's pretty simple and allows you to help support families that are raising money by purchasing these great t-shirts below and several others. You can see all of the shirts on their website

I love these kid shirts. Hermela tells us all the time that when she grows up, she's going to change the world. She's already changed ours and we will be forever grateful.

Here's how it works:

During the month of November, Ordinary Hero is donating all profits from their t-shirt sales to families that are adopting. That works out to be $10 per shirt!! The shirts are priced at $15, $20 and $25 each ($19.95, $24.95 and $29.95 with shipping). It doesn't matter which shirt you purchase, we'll still receive $10 for every shirt that is purchased in our name until the end of this month!

The process is simple. Just go online to Ordinary Hero's site and purchase the shirt or shirts of your choice. Then (this is the important part), look for "add special instructions to the seller" "Ad" button. Click on the blue "ad" and put our name Jessica and Nick Irvin so we can be credited for the shirts. **It is hard to see this sentence if you are not looking for it. It appears under the shipping address portion**.
At the end of November, Ordinary Hero will send a check directly to our agency to cover any remaining costs that we have.

These shirts make a great gift as we approach the gift giving season. How nice to know that not only will the shirts be sending a great message, but they are also helping (you are helping) to bring an orphan home!

If you're not into t-shirts or just want to add a little variety to your gift giving, we still have our coffee store with Just Love coffee. Just click on the link or icon on the left side of our blog and have delicious fair trade coffee from around the world delivered directly to your doorstep. This option is available until we get "R" home and then through the whole next year.

I mentioned that this Christmas season, our family wants to change our traditions to focus on giving gifts to Jesus for His birthday, not just to each other. This is one great way that you can make your gift giving a little more meaningful by giving back to a cause that is close to the Father's heart.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Orphan Sunday

Tomorrow is Orphan Sunday-a day to raise awareness about the orphan crisis and the church's responsibility to respond to it. This is one of the things that God has taught me throughout our adoption process. The call to care for the orphans and widows and needy of this world is not a call directed at the government or celebrities or non-profits, it is a call (actually a command) issued to those who profess to follow Christ. It is something we should willingly and lovingly do because it is exactly what God did for us through His son.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

We can all do something for the orphans in this world whether it is through adoption, sponsorship, prayer or raising awareness. All across our country tomorrow, churches will come together for the cause of the fatherless. I pray He will move mountains in the hearts of His congregation as thousands see the face of the orphan and hear their stories and I pray that as that happens, that those faces will be harder to ignore.

Why Love Orphans? from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Defending the Fatherless,


Friday, November 5, 2010

Making Room For One More

We were able to send our dossier off on Monday and our immigration paperwork today. The dossier is like compiling a small book of all the details, clearances, references and records of our family. It was 30 pages, but with all of the required copies, the grand total came to 180 pages in all. What a relief to send that off. Now, everything that we're responsible for in the paperwork process is complete. We can sit back and enjoy the wait (patiently of course).

This is before I made copies.
My father-in-law built the girls' beds when we were waiting for Hermela and Meron. I love them and the girls love sleeping in the same room together.

When we found out we'd be adding one more girl, my father-in-law was able to add a fourth bed right under Meron's bunk. It was surely meant to be a room for four girls. We can't wait until the fourth bed is filled. I told him these sturdy space saving beds would be a hit in the adoption/larger family circuit and that he should start up a little business.

We've also been able to send off two care packages so far. This one should be delivered in a few weeks by another mom who is travelling to the care center where "R" is. I can't wait to see pictures from that trip!

Preparing for "R" makes the whole thing seem a little more real and each step we take to get ready makes the wait a little harder.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is Santa Claus Real???

Well, I grew up thinking he was and so did my husband. I have fond memories of the anticipation and excitement of Christmas Eve and of the joy of waking up on Christmas morning to all the surprises that “Santa” had left. We’ve celebrated Santa with our own kids -read the stories, told of the reindeer and jingle bells and toys for “good little boys and girls.” We’ve hung stockings (on the front door with care-no chimney here) and even gone as far as hanging a special key outside our door so Santa could let himself in (covers the whole no chimney thing). All the while, we taught of the true meaning of Christmas and of Jesus’ miraculous birth. I had no doubt that our kids believed in the Christmas story and understood that Christmas is really all about Jesus’ birthday. We tried to link our gift giving to baby Jesus’ birth (each child gets 3 presents just like the 3 presents that baby Jesus received from the wise men). Yet, I could clearly see that our kids were far more excited about the prospect of presents than about celebrating Jesus’ birth-it’s hard to compete with jolly old St. Nick and sack full of toys.

As the years past, playing Santa started to lose its luster. Putting on the charade became more and more of an effort and we started to wonder why we were even doing it in the first place. We had already dismissed the Easter bunny story (I mean really, a giant bunny stealing and hiding colored eggs and bringing candy for baskets???). It just didn’t seem right. But Santa, that was a different story. St. Nicholas was a real person after all and we were just carrying on the tradition of a generous man right?

This part of “Christmas” is so ingrained in our society and was a big part of our childhood Christmas celebrations that we carried the tradition on without much thought up until the past year or so. We have friends that celebrate Santa and friends that don’t. The ones that don’t, always said, “I don’t want my kids to believe in something that’s not real.” This was where I would insert my rebuttal, “Well then, you can’t take them to Disney World to see Mickey Mouse or Cinderella, because then they might believe that they are real.” I didn’t believe that my kids would trust in Santa for their salvation any more than I thought they’d trust in Mickey Mouse. I just felt like it was all in fun and one day, they’d figure it out like we all did.

I had another conversation with one of my non-Santa celebrating friends on Monday. She said, “You know, we don’t celebrate other people’s birthdays by making everyone else feel special or by giving everyone except the birthday person gifts. So why do we do that with Jesus?” That statement really stuck with me. We’ve taken “Christmas” and made it into something it was never intended to be-a grand marketing scheme to encourage us to get more stuff-the latest and greatest in life clogging stuff.

I actually had anxiety (starting back in the summer) with the thought of “Christmas” coming and the overwhelming influx of stuff that would be entering our home this year. I mean, 5 kids times 3 presents each is 15 presents-and that’s just at our house. Then you have grandparents and great-grandparents (our kids have 5 sets) and well meaning aunts and cousins and even friends that enjoy giving to our little ones and before you know it we’ve acquired more stuff than we could possible keep track of, let alone cherish or treasure or appreciate. How do you teach your kids that it’s not all about them-life is not about their continued entertainment and happiness-in a society that places so much time and effort on insisting on all the stuff?

Our pastor preached about King Asa out of 2 Chronicles this past Sunday. The focus was on how he took down all of the idols that had distracted the people and divided their hearts. He had to remove the “stuff” that was hindering their relationship with God. I began to feel like we had made an idol out of Santa and that he was overshadowing our celebration of Jesus.

So, Nick and I made the decision that we would no longer keep up the tradition of Santa Claus in our home. We started by telling our oldest, Caleb, because he is the most invested with the whole thing and we asked him, “Is Mickey Mouse real or pretend?

Caleb: “Pretend”

“Are Jedi Knights real or pretend (I know I’m stepping on some toes that are strong in force with this one…)?”

Caleb: ”Pretend”

OK we thought, we’re on the right track.

“Is Santa Claus real or pretend.”

Caleb (with starry eyes and big toothless grin): “REAL!”

Oh, the lump in my throat was growing as I knew we were about to crush a childhood dream (he did, for the record, also affirm without hesitation that Jesus was real).

So we explained it all and he got it. Then we told the rest of the kids. Hermela and Meron had already been initiated by the other kids as to who and what Santa Claus was and what all this American Christmas stuff was all about (they’ve been eagerly anticipating Christmas since they first heard of the guy in the big red suit) and even though we’d always down played the Santa story and taught them that it was about Jesus, again, the bag full of toys won out.

It was actually all much easier for them to understand than I had expected it to be. I asked them why they thought that Hermela and Meron never had a visit from Santa in Ethiopia. They had been good little girls, so why had Santa forgotten them? We then talked about how Jesus never forgets us and how He was in Ethiopia and how He had been with the girls there and how He is everywhere and that is how we know He is real and Santa is just pretend. I felt such relief by coming clean about the whole thing (we also nixed the whole tooth fairy things as well-tough day I know, but we may as well clear the air completely).

I always thought it was sad for kids who didn’t celebrate Santa, but now, I see the value of putting the focus back on Jesus. I always justified doing both, but the more that I realize that I want to be more like Jesus, the more I know that there will be things (idols if you will) that I will have to give up and that our family will have to give up in order to remove the distractions in our lives.

As we talked, we started thinking about what kind of gifts Jesus would like for His birthday. What makes Jesus happy? Our kids mentioned, praying and reading the bible and helping others (I added obeying your parents-thought it was a good time to throw that one in as well). I want to have an undivided heart for Jesus and give Him the gift of obedience. I want to follow Him wherever He leads and bring the love of Jesus to those around me and across the world and I want to do that for His glory so that others will be pointed back to Him-the giver of all good gifts.

So, this year, I want to make sure that we're giving gifts to the One whose birthday we are celebrating. I have some exciting details coming up about how you can make an eternal difference in the lives of orphaned and needy children in Ethiopia this Christmas, giving gifts to others and the Lord all at the same time.

The Santa Claus news was really a relief for Colton (he was never too fond of the guy).

*P. S. For my family and friends who still believe or have little ones that do, our kids have been instructed not to spoil it for them. *

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Family Fun

This past month, we've been lucky to have had lots of fun family times. My parents live walking distance from us, so the kids see them several times a week. But Nick's parents and grandparents live out of town, so it's always nice when they can visit. We got to spend time with his parents and his grandmother (our kids' great-granny Pat) in October.

Here's the latest hair style. Hermela is always asking for tiny braids-meaning teeny tiny corn rows. While I've learned to cornrow, it is so time consuming and mine really aren't that good. Especially the teeny tiny ones, so I did box braids and she was pretty happy with that tonight.

Caroline wanted hers done too, but I'd already been doing hair for almost 2 hours at that point, so she settled for one braid tonight and I'm planning to try and recreate Hermela's hair style for her tomorrow.

My parents took the kids camping and this is a shot of Nick and Caleb playing stick baseball-never miss an opportunity to practice right?
The girls outside the girls' tent.
My parents and the crew.
Nick's grandmother stopped by in her motor home last week while cruising the state. Meron chatting with Granny Pat.
A serious game of memory match with a princess.
Granny Pat and the crew reading a bed time story.

We had fun carving pumpkins-a first for Hermela and Meron of course. Nick's parents were in town and my brother came over, so we had one on one pumpkin carving buddies which was nice (otherwise Nick and I would have been at it for hours).

The finished product.
All dressed up (one of our little princesses had a little tantrum mishap (epic tantrum really) prior to the festivities and lost her dress up privileges :(
Nick's parents and the crew.

My parents and the crew.
Our boys found a bench and promptly dug in. We've had several incidents of Colton disappearing at home, only to find him hiding with a piece of candy in his mouth-we're working on that.

My Aunt had a nice little party for the kids. Pretty cute bunch if I do say so myself.

That pretty much takes care of October. The girls loved this "made-up" holiday season and are looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. You should have seen Hermela's delight as she ran house to house. Where else do you get to act like a princess and have candy poured into your bag by strangers? Only in America.
That brings me to my next post: Is Santa Claus real????? I'll post the answer to that question soon.