Friday, February 20, 2009

Can Your Life Change in 20 Minutes?

An Open Letter To Samuel Haftom

Dear Samuel,

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Janis and I met you today for the first time, although I kind of hope that you forget that part since it involved a lot of flashbulbs going off in your face. But let me start over with the introductions. My husband works with your dad at the radio station. And I got to meet you for the first time today. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I was the first of many American friends that you saw here! And it may have only been 20 minutes of your life, but you have already changed mine!

The day you arrived here was a cold one, 25 degrees, but wonderfully sunny. The details are forever etched in my memory and I want you to know what kind of impact you have had on the world already. Let me back up...

I saw your mom the day after she learned you might be her son. She explained how she got a call from the agency and expected them to tell her it would be a long time until they placed a child with her family. She described the shock and excitement to hear that they had a son for her right now. I heard your family talk about the preparations they were making for your arrival. How they anticipated what your needs would be and how they wanted everything to be so right for you. But it wasn't just those five people who were anticipating and wanting things to be right for you...

On the day you arrived, I had some things to get done but everything I did was wrapped around the thought that I needed to be at the airport at 2:00 to meet Samuel. My sister-in-law worked in the morning instead of the afternoon so that she could watch my child so that I could meet you. Your sister's teacher, Mrs. Agosta, made a giant poster which Sydney's classmates signed, all to welcome you. As I walked around Fairfield Christian Academy that day, every mention of your name brought a joyous smile to the faces that heard it. They were all anticipating your arrival. My friends who knew my plans to meet you but may not ever meet you themselves, were anticipating your arrival.

When I got to the airport, it seemed as though everyone there was a character in the drama that was unfolding-a child coming from so far away to meet his family for the first time was about to come down the hallway. Some of those people were aware that something wonderful was happening. I watched people reading the sign "Welcome Home Samuel Haftom" and wondered what they thought. Perhaps they expected a grown man, in his military fatigues to saunter down those escalator steps and be welcomed home from battle. Perhaps they wondered if a daddy was coming home to his family after a long trip. Or maybe, just maybe they knew the truth. A little boy had traveled half way around the world to finally be home. A family had so desired to stay in the will of God that they put any other fleshly desires aside to follow His call. A call that meant going 7418 miles (one way), a week away from their daughters, time off from their jobs and a lifetime commitment to a child they had not even met face to face. Wow.

And I could see in your face that you were worth every one of those sacrifices and more. I could see that your parents knew it when I saw their laughing faces as they walked through the security gate proudly carrying their son. I saw that it was worth it to your sisters as they tried to look into your eyes and know you. And I think even those strangers who were observing this meeting would bear witness to the fact that you are already a much loved part of this family.

Today, it snowed for the first time in a couple weeks. And I thought, "I wonder what Samuel will think of the snow?" You have already changed my view of the world, I can only imagine the impact you will have in the days to come. Thanks for letting me be a part of this day!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It Can Only Get Better, Right?

When your day starts out like this....

it can only go up right? Yes, folks, that is my deep fryer spread eagle on the floor of my kitchen surrounded by the vegetable oil that used to be contained inside it. I store it in the cardboard box in which it came and apparently, the grease not only weakens my resolve (I just see that thing and think of donuts) but it also weakens cardboard. Thus, as I lifted the box, the fryer exited out the bottom and onto the floor.

1. Thank you Lord that I wasn't on the carpet!
2. God, is this your way of saying, "Girl, this thing isn't good for your heart or your hips, put it away!"
3. No, I'm thinking the message from the Lord was more along the lines of, "You really need to clean that kitchen floor. I mean CLEAN it. And what about that crud that is under your oven? While you're down there, do something about THAT too!"

Thankfully, Mator and Doodle were able to occupy themselves with this while I was cleaning:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bringing Their Son from Ethiopia

Our good friends, Steve and Stacie Rauch are in Ethiopia as.we.speak meeting their son, Samuel Haftom for the first time. He is a 3 1/2 year old living doll (at least he looks like it in the pictures) who apparently has a mischievous side that will make him a perfect match for his father. You can read about their experience on their blog: Click here

Theirs is a great story, one that I'm kind of partial to-they have three beautiful daughters! Their youngest is in third grade and their family is adopting this child. I say family because it is clear that Samuel's sisters are as excited about this as their parents and God has blessed them all with a love for a child they are yet to meet. And while they never asked me to do this (and I hope they don't mind) they are accepting donations right now to help defray the cost on this adoption (to the tune of $24,000). Now through April 1 all donations up to $2500 will be matched by an adoption charity. Go visit their blog, read their story (specifically, look at why they chose international instead of domestic adoption) and if God so leads, please consider blessing them with a donation. And consider this, perhaps you are not able to adopt a child at this point in your life. Maybe God can use you to help the Rauch's bring home their son. Thanks!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sometimes God Whispers, Sometimes He Yells

"He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses." Psalm 135:7

Last night, around 9:45 PM, our electricity (along with that of about 10,000 of our closest friends) went off. Not a big deal. I had filled the bathtub with water in case we would need to flush the toilets (if you don't have a well, that doesn't make any sense so ask a friend who has a well). I had even managed to squeeze out a few "important" emails and shut down the computer. I did forget to wash my face and brush my teeth which is also more difficult without running water but not a huge deal (can be accomplished with a water bottle).

Things got a little more difficult as I tried to settle in to bed in the deafening silence of a home that is un-electrified (Merriam Webster take note-I made up that word!). Mator is used to a fan in her room and woke immediately after the power shut off. She went back to sleep remarkably easy. I however, at 35 years old now, have more years of habit behind me. It is VERY hard for me to sleep without my white noise machine (note to self-buy a battery operated backup-duh). Plus, there is the "back of your mind" question- are these 60 MPH gusts going to rip the shingles off my house or the whole roof? And if the whole roof goes, will my children be sucked out of their beds? What about all the pictures I've been meaning to scrapbook that are sitting on the counter in the other room? Do I have digital backups in case those are sucked into the vortex? Oh, and should we be down in the basement? This is what kept me up until after midnight. Then, Doodle woke up and let out an ear piercing scream so I "gently" carried her to our room to sleep off the terrifying dream she must have had. At 5:30 I started waking every 30 minutes: Andy's alarm, Muffin's terrified cry, Andy calling to let me know he was on a 2 hour delay, my alarm, etc. So when I finally got up, still no electricity, I thought, "How is God going to use me getting maybe 4 hours of sleep to glorify Him-this ought to be good." In other words, what was the point of this major wind storm anyway?? Want to know?

Well, I got Muffin ready for school, packed up my toiletries and after dropping her off an hour late, I went of to my in-laws to take a shower. When I arrived I found that their good friend Mary had also sought refuge at their "electrified" house. I was talking to Mary when suddenly my mother in law called for help from the next room. She was in a desperate situation and the truth is, if we had not been there, she could have been in an even worse situation quickly. We were trying to help when the phone rang. Normally, I wouldn't answer their phone but I saw that it was my father in law. See, he was supposed to be 1 1/2 hours into a trip to Michigan but his boss was late to arrive at work and so he was still in town. Guess why his boss was late? And do you know why my father in law was calling? Just to check in with his wife. Wow. God is so good! He was at the house in five minutes and resolved the situation. If not for that windstorm knocking out our power, my mother in law would have been all alone in a time of need. Isn't God so grand?

So, sometimes God whispers and we are left to wonder what was His will in a situation? There are certainly times when we will have to be satisfied to wait until our glorious meeting in heaven to say, "Hey, by the way, what was THAT all about?" Then there are times when God is a roaring windstorm who practically shouts, "I am in this. I created this, and I created you. And sister, you need to sit back and relax and remember who is in charge!"

By the way, our power came back on about 15 minutes after I got back home today. Thank you Lord!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When are you leaving?

One post I've been meaning to do for a very long time is an update on our search for an overseas teaching placement, so here goes...

1. The beginning: About 1 year ago Andy came home from work and let me know that an economics teacher at an international school in Beijing, China was transferring and what did I think about moving to China for a teaching job? My initial response, "Um, well, I'm kind of busy with all this laundry and stuff, can you ask me about it in, say, 20 years or so?" But in a very short period of time I went from there to, "When can we go?". That's God. If you know me, I really like things that happen in "due" time and especially if they follow a pattern. And I really like where we are right now. Things are pretty good (thanks be to God). So changing my heart to a place where I was excited about taking my family half way around the world for a year (or more) was completely God.

2. The middle: We have looked into finding a job my ourselves (not easy), have applied with the Department of Defense (involves waiting until at least March and probably later), attending a job fair for international jobs (would be next January in Iowa) and finding a placement in a Christian school (that would require us to raise significant support).

Andy has applied for jobs with the Department of Defense. There are several "1 year" commitment schools of which we would consider the following countries: Italy, Korea, Japan, Turkey and the coast of Portugal. Other schools that we wouldn't accept include: Cuba, Bahrain and I think Vietnam. Now we are just waiting to hear when jobs open up for next year. That could be as early as March and as late as June.

If that doesn't work out for next year, we are looking at attending an international job fair that is held in Iowa each year. Those jobs generally require a two year commitment which would be a stretch for us. They are also with international schools just about anywhere in the world. They provide almost total cultural immersion (as opposed to a DOD school that would be on a military base).

If we go next year, we assume that Andy would teach full time and I might tutor or do some part-time administrative work. Next year Muffin will be in third grade, Doodle in K and Mator will be 3. If we go somewhere the following year, Mator would be old enough for preschool and I would consider teaching too.

3. The end - Well, we aren't sure when we are going to get any answers, but we believe God has placed this desire in our hearts. There is no other way to explain why we would be willing to give up all of this:
Living next door to my parents and one brother
Living within 20 minutes of all my children's cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents
Andy's Department Head position at the high school (he could get a year leave of absence and get a job back, there is just no guarantee what or where it would be)
A great Christian school
Teaching opportunities for me at OU-L
Our wonderful church family
Our friends

So we wait and know that God will move things in His time and provide a way for us to survive without all of those things listed above (that right now I can't imagine living without). Your prayers are appreciated, and thanks for asking about updates!