Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year End Review

As I write my final post of 2014, it is only fitting to reflect on this past year.
 This year has been in a word "hard." 
We have had many changes within our family with jobs, schooling and moving to a new home and with changes come growing pains.  From my experience, growing pains are not very pleasant.
  The challenges were not just within our family.  Our friends and extended family have endured trials far greater than ours this year suffering from illness, loss and tragedies.  The injustices that exist around us in and in our world are overwhelming.
So much for an uplifting New Year's Eve post right????
Well, this verse has been on constant replay in my head this year.
John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This world is not as it should be.  We will have troubles here, but when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can have peace, even through the hard.
So, take heart, if you also file this year under the "hard" category.  There is hope and peace to be found.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG tells us to:
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
Not always easy, but when I start to count my blessings, it does miraculous things for my attitude and perspective.
Along with the hard, we had some pretty amazing moments in 2014 and saw God working time and time again. So I want to thank God for these moments.
Big God moments top 10:
1. Flew to Ethiopia on 5 hours notice with friends, found their little girl in Holeta within hours of landing (p.s. met the mayor of Holeta.....when does that just happen???)
2. Met up with our girls' birth mom and learned much more about their histories while in Ethiopia.
3. Raised over $1500 in 4 days to send to Holeta orphanage in desperate need.
4. Nick and Hermela raised $6000 in less than a month to travel back to Ethiopia in August for a mission trip and to visit Hermela's birth family.
5. Birth family meeting goes amazingly well, truly God ordained.
6. New care point partnership with I Care for the Nations care point in Ethiopia launches at our church, 98 kids sponsored so far!

7. Sold our house after vandals broke in the day before closing, stole all of our appliances and flooded entire house (yeah that was one of those "hard" times).

8. Hosted post mission trip meeting in above mentioned flooded house and prayed for the 150 children in need of sponsorship at I Care for the Nations just 24 hours after evil had been done there.........take that bad guys!

9. Our friends mentioned in #1 lose their little girl who they worked so hard to bring home, but God uses it all for good and now their church has partnered with HopeChest to support a care point in Holeta.  So far 61 kids have been sponsored!

10. I am currently typing this in a king sized bed at a hotel while Nick is sleeping.  We celebrated
our 13th year of marriage alone last night and slept a full 8 hours without interruption (and that's a big deal when you have 7 kids :-)

And because there are never enough hours in the day to update this old blog, I will now end in pictures, recapping the past 2 months.

Peter Pan


Tinker Bell

Captain Hook



Princess Tiger Lily

We got all dressed up with great friends!

We took our annual Disney trip.  This year we had tickets from Disney road race volunteering and from Hermela doing the "It's a Small World" event at Disney.  We love free tickets......only way this big family can make it.

 Celebrated Nick's mom Judy's 60th birthday at our new house.

 Watched the girls do a great job performing in Peter Pan Jr.

And Nick kicked off birthday season.

We had a great Christmas season this year celebrating with our Advent wreath, Jesse Tree, annual Christmas Eve party and Candlelight Service, Christmas lights and a fun Christmas morning.

Each child picks the name of a sibling and buys them a gift.

I love watching the gift giver watch the recipient open their gift.  They are always so excited.

Colton got Rahel and teased her that he bought her a toy (she didn't want any toys.....getting too old you know).  She was delighted to receive boots instead.

Caleb used his own money this year to buy Nick a much anticipated gift.  Caleb could hardly wait to give it to him.

Just what Nick needed.....a new airsoft mask.

My parents gave us a trip with them to a Georgia mountain house for Christmas.

We celebrated Colton's birthday there.

He requested dirt cake with worms. 
We were out of town and I forgot the candles,
so we used these candlesticks.

Happy 7th birthday Colton!!

The other part of their present to us was a trip to Snow Mountain to go tubing.

We had a blast!

And now we'll finish our holidays bringing in the New Year with Nick's parent and family.
Life is always better with Grandparents.
So as the New Year approaches, I will remember all of these good times, along with the hard times.
  This is life.
The good and the not so good and my prayer is that my faith will mature over this next year and we will live each of our days for Jesus.
James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Happy New Year!!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

2 years Home

What a difference 2 years makes (the picture below was actually taken in August 2012 when I went for court.....he was so tiny and sweet!).

Now he is just as sweet, although not as tiny. Our boy is growing up fast!

He's smothered with love by all of his brothers and sisters.

And loves his daddy!
Just last night he was snuggling with Nick and said, "Daddy, you're my buddy."

He is such a joy and our family has truly received one of God's greatest blessings.

Happy 2 years home to our favorite little 2 year old!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Love Ethiopia

God has blessed us with some amazing friends over the years and these two are two of our favorites!  Nick and Travis have been friends since childhood and have some pretty tall tales to tell of their adventurous boyhood.  I met Travis and Robin shortly after Nick and I started dating in 1999 and we have all grown together as friends over the years.

One thing that we love most about them is how they serve the Lord.  These two live out the gospel on a daily basis and serve their community and church continually.  Over the past few years we have developed an even stronger bond as they embarked on the great (and often long and winding) road of adopting a child from Ethiopia.  Their trip down this road has been particularly challenging and even led us to a spur of the moment trip to Ethiopia this past February.  You can read about that here.  They literally did everything they could possibly do to bring their little girl home, but just last month they learned that a person related to their little girl's case returned to the orphanage to adopt her herself (click here to read the whole story). Definitely not the ending we were all hoping and praying for.

Heartbroken and devastated, but not defeated and with amazing faith, Travis and Robin continue down the road that has now veered off to an amazing detour in which their church is now partnering with Children's HopeChest and a care point in the region their little girl is from.  That impromptu trip in February ignited a love for Ethiopia and it's people and amongst all their loss, God's plan is being revealed.  God is amazing!.  He works all things together for good and it has been an honor to watch Travis and Robin navigate through all of these ups and downs.

Still feeling called to continue with their adoption from Ethiopia, Travis and Robin are once again on the waitlist to be matched with a child in need of a family!  As many of you know, international adoption is a very expensive process, and they have lost everything, nearly $30,000 with their first attempt.  They will need to start the process almost entirely over again, including saving and FUNDRAISING for the associated fees and travel.  We just keep saying, "it's all God's money, He provided the first time and He will provide again."

So here's where we all get the opportunity to make a difference and bless this awesome couple. 
 They are now selling these really cool LOVE ETHIOPIA  T-shirts that we are all wearing in these pictures for $15 a piece (+$2 shipping)
with ALL proceeds ($15 per shirt) going towards their adoption.

With the Christmas season approaching, these would make a great gift for an adoptive family or anyone with a heart for adoption, Ethiopia, orphan care or someone who just wants to make a donation and get a cute shirt to go with it.

Please click on the "add to cart" link at the TOP LEFT of my blog to place your order today. 
When Travis and Robin came to visit this past weekend, they left me
34 shirts.
 I'm hoping to sell out quickly and raise a fast $500+ for their adoption. 
 We have youth sizes S, M, L and adult S, M, L and XL
(XXL coming soon). 
 Adult sizes are gray, youth sizes are navy blue.
For reference, Nick is wearing the adult L, I'm wearing the adult S (tight fit, M would have also worked for a looser fit), adult S for Rahel (youth L would have also worked for her), youth M for Caleb, Hermela, Caroline and Meron, and youth small for Colton and Eli (Eli's was big, but worked well if tucked in).
Let's join hands and help this family bring their
next little one home...."hopefully this time next year"
(that's an inside joke :-)
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrew 13:16 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Let Your Light Rise!

I'm about a week behind on posting more kids for sponsorship.......never enough hours in a day.    

So far, the team has found sponsors for 12 of the 150 kids at I Care For The Nations including Elshadai Desse and Hani Arga featured in my last post!

So exciting!

Now, just 138 to go!

Here's a short video to get you excited about making it happen.

I can only reach a very small audience with this blog and many of my readers already sponsor a child or two (or three :-)

So, please SHARE THIS POST and video to get the word out.

If you're interested in sponsoring a child through Children's HopeChest's care point at I Care for the Nations, email me and I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have and connect you with the sponsorship coordinator to get things rolling.

 and the love of a sponsor change lives!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Let's Get Ready to Sponsor!

I Care for the Nations serves as a center of support to approximately 150 children and their families.  Most of these children come from single mother led households.  In Ethiopia, there are few opportunities for women to provide for their families.  If a father is involved, he would typically provide for the family while the mother cared for the children and household responsibilities.  In cases where the father has either died or left the family, mothers are faced with the daunting task of providing for their children by working low paying jobs as clothing washers, cooks, maids and sometimes turning to the streets to make money to feed their children.  Being a single mom anywhere is a huge job.  But in Ethiopia where there is no infrastructure of support like daycare, food assistance, free is an overwhelming task.  Many of these mothers are also HIV + which adds to their challenges as they are outcast from their communities.

I Care is working to break this cycle of poverty which often times results in children being unable to attend school, have enough nourishment and in some cases be placed in orphanages when the mothers simply can't provide.  These children have mothers that in general want to take care of their kids, but because of the circumstances they are in, they just can't do it without help.  This is one thing that I love about what Children's HopeChest does.  It enables families to stay together by joining hands to provide basic support and bridge the gap between desperation and opportunity.

They have also specifically chosen to focus on providing nutritional counseling and nutritious food to the children who are HIV+.  This is making a big difference in the health of these children and allows for their medications to be more effective, giving them a better shot at a healthier life.

I Care not only works to help provide school supplies and support to the children, but also to educate and empower their mothers.  I love this!

The director of I Care is a women who saw the needs of her community and decided to act.  She has asked friends and others in her community to join in her efforts and has thus far supported this care point on those donations.  She is a visionary and has many ideas about ways to further assist the children served there.  For example, due to limited funding, I Care is only able to provide food assistance to the approximately 17 children who are HIV+.  They have chosen to feed those most at risk, but lets be honest, ALL of the children at I Care would benefit from improved nutrition and more food.  This is where we come in.  We have the opportunity through sponsorship to join together with her to increase the capacity of I Care to serve these children. 

When the team was in Ethiopia, they had the chance to play games with the kids, sing songs, teach bible stories and do crafts.  As they spent time with the kids, connections were made and little bits of their personalities and stories were revealed.  Today I'm going to introduce you to 8 kids that stuck out to Nick while he was there.  Tomorrow, I'll post some more cuties that stole my heart through their pictures.

Introducing the Great 8

Up first is a sweet little girl, only 3 years old.  She showed up in many of Nicks photos.  Her name is Elshadai Desse.


Next up is Surafel Belay, an 8 year old little boy who Nick said was really a sweet kid and loved musical chairs and craft time.

Nick said this next girl was so tiny and frail and so sweet too.  I just think she is adorable and has the most beautiful eyes.  Meet 5 year old Simegne Alemeshet


This is Dagim Chekol and he is a 7 year old boy who loved all of the games that the team played with the kids.  Nick said he was super competitive.  I just have to say, there's nothing like watching some of these boys plays sports and games.  They really go after it!

Nick said this next little guy, Nathnael Debebe was such a good kid and he remembers he needed a little extra help during craft time.  I just love his smile.  Such a cutie!


Nick went on and on about how smart this next little girl is.  He said that after hearing all of the team members names just once, that she was able to identify them all by name.  He said she was a natural leader, knew lots of English words, was a great helper and just pure joy!  Meet 10 year old
 Hani Arga.

pictured here with one of the team members

This next precious girl caught our eye first because of her name "Rahel."  She actually resembles our Rahel when she was that age.  We have one picture of our daughter Rahel around the age of 6 wearing a pink wind suit that resembles this Rahel.
Meet 6 year old Rahel Abera.

our Rahel age 6 years

And finally, I've saved my favorite for last.  This is 7 year old  Mikiyas Jemal.  The top picture is one of the first pictures Nick sent me while he was in Ethiopia.  Mikiyas is the little guy in the front.  He just stole my heart.  He has a lazy left eye.  Meron came home with a lazy eye and we were able to patch her eye, retrain her brain to use that eye and restore her vision.  This is something that if taken care of early, can usually be corrected.  I'm praying one of our friends will sponsor this little one so we can follow his progress.  Perhaps he will even be able to get treatment for his eye condition.  We have lots more pictures of him that I'd be happy to send to his sponsor family.  Nick said he had the sweetest personality.

with his mother

So there you have it.  Eight precious children who have through no fault of their own been born into some pretty rough circumstances.  But their stories don't end here.  These kids have hope of a different kind of future and
their hope is YOU.

I've talked to many people over the years about orphan care, adoption and sponsorship.  So many people will say, "Oh, I'd love to do that some day." Or, "I've always wanted to do that but......."  fill in the blank.  There are many reasons one could give to not sponsor one of these children. 

 But, when it comes right down to it, nearly all of you who will read this post have the means and ability to make the $38 per month commitment to change one of these children's lives.

The $38 per month sponsorship provideds food, water, basic medical care, education and discipleship.  To read more about HopeChest's model, click here.

If you have any questions about any of the kids I've listed or about HopeChest or I Care for the Nations, please email me at

And if one of these kiddos caught your eye or made you think, hmmm, maybe I'm supposed to do this sponsorship thing, please email me and I'll connect you with our sponsorship coordinator.

Once a child has a sponsor, I'll update this page.  I'm hoping to be able to mark SPONSORED by each of these kids' names by the end of the week.

Stay tuned.  I'll be posting more pictures tomorrow.

Time to take that next small step!