Do you know what friendship is… it is to be brother and sister; two souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand. -Victor Hugo
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Today is your 29th birthday. That means I have known you a long time! This is one of those occasions that I do not mind indulging in nostalgia; thinking about our lives together. Much of our childhood I remember through pictures and shadowy recollections. Do you remember playing dogs- we used the plastic strap that went around the Tupperware cake holder as a leash held in our mouths? I also remember how we took our stuffed animals Dori and Beary-Bear everywhere we went. Those were sweet times, just the two of us living a perfect childhood.
 
I know that as we grew, there were many changes in our lives, but our friendship was always steadfast. Moving to Sherman Avenue gave us room to dig HUGE holes, pretend we were secret agents, ride bikes, and get married. What could be more natural than marrying your best friend? I never minded that we played G.I. Joes more than Care Bears, because it was with you. You were my closest companion, and we never were apart.
 
I think that was true all the way until I started High School. Even though we had many times of strife (remember how I would make you late for school every day and then leave you behind on the one day you were running late?), there was still the knowing that you were always there. I might have been moody and depressed, but you were still a constant friend. If you think about it, all those swim practices, youth group meetings, and days at the Y were all done together.
 
I remember how after I went to college, you really became very cool. I was so proud of you and all your accomplishments: seeing you swim at State, become Prom king, and receive scholarships- just to name a few. It is funny to me now that you were so mad that when I came home from school, it was a holiday, while you were so taken for granted! Roles sure have reversed!
 
But I think it has been as adults that we have really discovered the meaning of “brotherly love”. As I was moving into a time of life much different than yours, I think we began to really appreciate each other. How I laughed to see you driving that terrible gray van, but at the same time I admired your attitude that appearance did not matter. It was hard to see you make choices that would take you far away from us, but my heart was so glad to see you learning the lessons that were growing you into a godly man. I still knew that you would be excited to know that we had found a cool new house, or that I had actually run 10 miles. You may have been living a life I could not relate to, but I knew that your unfailing love was still a huge part of my life.
 
I am done with all that now, though. I am tired of you being so far away. I respect your need to have space and experiences that stretch you, but I am ready for you to again be a daily companion- and not just by email! I am still so proud of what you are doing, and who you are (and are still becoming) and yet, your absence has become a great source of sadness to me. I sometimes think that no one can understand you quite like your siblings. You know about “wax on, wax off,” about how vacuuming sooths the soul and why, about the Azda and all my embarrassing memories, you were there when we discovered Casey Kasem and secular radio that long summer in Atlanta, and you alone remember and understand the sweet innocence that was once my life. I love this and I am so thankful that 29 years ago, the Lord gave me a wonderful companion. I hope that someday you will live next-door and raise a family, but if you never do, and we are still parted for this life, I know that you are always my brother. And that is truly saying something. I love you.

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What can I say about this picture?  We gave her this outfit for Christmas, and I can not tell you how glad I am that she wants to wear it every day!

1. A cool new blog that makes me want to write

2. Jack Bauer night

3. Gob’s “magic tricks” – well, Arrested Development in general

4. Dogs, but not all dogs

5. The way my girls’ hair smells, sometimes like fruity shampoo, other times like wood smoke

6. The sound of my husband’s tires on the gravel driveway

7. Listening to music that makes my soul ache

8. Snuggling with my husband before I go to sleep

9. Saturday mornings that include Panera and garage sales

10. The sunshine that is my youngest daughter

11. Watching my oldest daughter learn to read and knowing- oh! knowing- all that is in store for her imagination

12. Finding the PERFECT thing that belongs in my house

13. Throwing stuff away

14. My middle daughter’s tender, beautiful heart

15. Cutting things- bushes, hair, fingernails- you name it

16. Realizing that God has indeed changed my heart

17. A cup of coffee and 3 hours alone with my bosom buddy

18. Camping in the mountains

19. Feeling a baby inside (not currently, just remembering!)

20. Having true hope

It has been a long time since I wrote last. Sometimes life is too intense to glibly write about it. When life feels this way, I am hard pressed to think of something “interesting” to write about- all I can do is wrestle with the issues at hand. Some bloggers are able to write a post every day, and I wonder- do they just find something benign to share while hiding their true reality? Or do they just not have thoughts like me? I know that I tend toward melancholy anyway, but I think others must have times that all they can think about is crisis and depression, and sadness. I wonder.

Anyway, I am coming out of the fog and feeling like tackling life again. I think I have shared before how I have struggled with the school situation that my eldest daughter is in. Her teacher is great, and all the people seem well-intentioned and kind. They always sought to address any issues I had, but how can they solve problems like underfunding, overcrowding, poverty, and ignorance in the school? They can’t, but I applaud them for trying to make a difference with the children that must be in these situations. We live in a poor rural area, and although these problems plague public schools everywhere, it was very close to home this week.

A boy that rides her bus brought a gun to school. It had an empty clip in it, and no one was hurt, but the thoughts of what might have happened terrified me. School shootings were not something I dealt with when I went to public school, and knowing how easy it is for a student to do this made me remember the risk we were taking to have her in this environment. I heard statistics lately about what kind of children are most likely to become shooters, and it turns out that white boys in the middle class that have absent fathers or bad relationships with their fathers, are the ones. This is not what one would stereotype as a shooter, the kind of people my daughter goes to school with would be that, so it is not that I think she is more like to get shot because we live in a poor, rural environment, but he DID bring a gun to school.

Many people do not have an option about where to send their child to school, or what quality of education they can have, but I do. I know that I can provide an excellent education for our children that far surpasses anything that their schools could offer. We wanted to try public school because it is so much easier- not to mention cheaper! But the reasons for keeping her there pale in comparison to the benefits of schooling her at home. I started to think of a pro-con list, but then I realized how ridiculous this would be. Imagine (cons- drugs, sex, guns, poverty, few resources available to teachers, high child/teacher ratio, bad peer influence, etc… [public school] cons- tired parent, not enough free time for parent, parent must be disciplined, expensive, etc…[homeschool]. Wonder which one is worse?

I can tell by the way this post came out, that anyone that does not know personally how smart, witty, educated, and awesome I am, would doubt that I could teach very well. But I can guarantee that the time and resources that I can devote to her education make up for my shortcomings.

I am excited to have her home and look forward to all that we will learn together. She is so delightful and I am so proud to have her. I know this post was a little off, but I have managed to finally get one done amidst a busy Saturday afternoon full of distractions. Love ya!

Last night, the girls had over an hour to pick up their chaotic rooms. I did not go upstairs to see how they had done, but instead told them to bring their pj’s down so I could give them a bath. After baths, I again sent them upstairs to get ready to read their story (we are reading the Wilderking Trilogy which I love). As I walked up the stairs, I reached the top step to find this interesting message…

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This fake rock had been given to my J. earlier this week, and it had been set strategically on the top stair so that I would not miss it as I came up. I began to laugh, and when S. saw that it had been well received, she confessed to leaving me a “message”. Apparently the picking-up had not gone very well!

My mom came over and took some pictures of the girls. We had a great time, but it was exhausting trying to get them to sit still and look cute!

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This is an excellent article that says what I was trying to say, but way better. I just love it when that happens. Hey, bro- I miss ya.

Matthew 25:40 (NKJV)
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

I have been thinking about the pivotal moments in my life when my thinking about the world was drastically and permanently changed. The first time I can really remember was when I was in high school and I read Night by Eli Wiesel. I knew about the Holocaust, of course, but after reading this book, among others, I KNEW. It was this knowing that changed me. I could no longer be the same person that I was before. My thinking about the world, human nature, and God was profoundly affected.

The second time, I have mentioned in this blog previously. When I watched the beheading of an American by Islamic terrorists, my KNOWING grew again. I would never view the world the same again.

This enlarging happened again this week when I read There Is No Me Without You, by Melissa Fay Greene. It is hard to put this book into a nutshell, but basically it is the story of AIDS, Ethiopia, and an ordinary woman’s fight to save a few. I knew about AIDS in Africa, of course. Especially in the last few years, the issue is getting more and more attention on the world stage. Literally. The big 8 concerts were in response to it, the Red campaign is trying to help, and I just read this week about Rick Warren’s church working on a big program.

But, you see, I did not KNOW. Now I do and I will never be the same, I hope. It is hard to put into words how something impacts your very innermost being, and yet this book did. Not the book, actually, but what the book showed me. The plight of the people in Ethiopia and all over Africa, is- well, there are not words. One only has to look into the faces of the children affected and you will understand. It is not my purpose here to explain the issue, yet, or what the book covers, but I feel that I must call attention to this issue in any way I can.

I was thinking last night, that if I had found out that the Holocaust was happening RIGHT NOW, what would I do? Would I feel very sad and even cry? Would I tell my close friends, and us all mourn over a cup of coffee? Or would ACT? I hope that I would do everything I could to make a difference, to help and to save. This is what we are facing right now- travesty on a scale that is too enormous to comprehend. Of course, the issues are different, but in some ways the same. There is no evil empire killing the innocent and filling the world with hatred (well, ok, there is, but it is Islam, not Nazism), but there are millions of people dying horrific deaths, millions of children living with no hope except to die themselves very soon, and it is in our lifetime. We must act.

The problem is, however, that AIDS is not the real problem. It is the absence of salvation. I was so profoundly moved by the stories of the few lucky children that were “saved” into the loving arms of a family. But what were they saved into? The scourge of disease, famine, and war is terrible, but living with no hope for eternity is worse- unbearably worse. I want to change the world; I want to save the children; I want to heal the people. But so did Jesus. He did offer them healing of their bodies, and even food. But more importantly, He offered them TRUE hope. One that does not fade with the reality of death. One that can make a dying person smile with hope for the future. No AIDS program can offer this, nor can adoption. But we must still do these things. We must just offer the real healing and hope of Jesus foremost.

So what am I going to do? Well, for starters, adopt as many children as I can. Next, pray for those that are helping, healing, and teaching about Jesus. But what else? This I do not know. But I will be seeking God’s face on this issue with my whole heart. Will I move to Africa and run a hospice or orphanage? Or will I just raise the ones I can and sacrifice so that I can give to organizations like Samaritan’s Hope of Gospel for Asia- people that are doing exactly what I am talking about? I do not yet know. But I can tell you- I will be beginning AT LEAST these steps today. God help us.

Well, I mentioned that I had read a great blog about a family who adopted and got home on the 8th. Our Adoption Story is the link; you might enjoy reading their experience. I actually read ALL the posts, but even a little will give you a perspective.
Another interesting thing to see is this Youtube look at the capital city on Ethiopia, Addis Ababa- Addis in 4:30. I can’t believe that God willing, we will be going there.
I have bunches to do today, but that should be enough to keep anyone busy for a while…

I had such a nice weekend. On Saturday morning, I spent a nice few hours just being with the girls. E. was working with my Dad building a retaining wall, so we had the morning to ourselves. We made some cards to send out and the girls spent time outside. I have to force them to go outside most of the time. It is either too hot, or there are too many bugs, or it is too cold, or they are bored. I gave them a huge lecture on the fact that they were not being grateful. After hearing how some kids have no people to play with, no coats and gloves to wear, no huge yard to explore, and no arm or legs, they decided I was serious and went out. Eventually they actually had fun. We have this 1.5 acre lot and they only play in the gravel by the back door- hard to understand.
The cats have been hanging around much more now that it has been so cold and I took pity on them and fed them again. I had heard that you should not feed them very much so they will catch mice. So I only gave them a little, and I did see one of them eating something small and animal like. I am just afraid it was a KITTEN that the mother knew would starve because I wouldn’t feed it. So its back to the good life and cat food two times a day.
So back to my nice Saturday. My sister and I went Christmas shopping for seven hours after E. got home. We had a blast and really found almost all the gifts we still had to purchase. I ordered half of my stuff on Amazon this year, and I can’t wait to get it all. I think you can buy ANYTHING on that site. Really it is crazy. E. told someone I had ordered a slave, which I thought was worth looking into…
After my success shopping, I did feel a little weird. I always feel this way after I spend large sums of money. I hate the feeling of greediness that comes over me. I am not being exactly greedy, because they are not gifts for myself, but I think it is the whole attitude of buying so many things that none of us really need. Thinking constantly about our new sons and the conditions they face in Ethiopia, makes the mall seem horribly stupid and unimportant. I do love giving gifts, and it is truly the thinking about what would really bless someone I love that makes me buy things. I wish I was just more creative and could think of something better. I love when people give me gifts that show they love, know, and thought about me, but I wonder if I would feel the same if we did like some do and donate the money that would have been spent of. I know this is a horrible tangent, and I really did have a wonderful time picking out all the gifts for those I love, but still, something gnaws at the edge of my mind that makes me think about this more.
I just spent an hour reading a blog about a family’s adoption journey to Ethiopia. They started blogging about their experience last year, and they just brought their two daughters home on December 7th. I was so touched and amazed that this will hopefully be my story soon. Seeing the struggles they encountered and how the Lord provided for them, and then the pictures of their beautiful daughters, made my heart just overflow with longing. I know that this blog will probably be taken over at some point with our adoption, but then, so will our life.
E. is drinking a beer all alone in the loft, so I think I will go and join him. I am so thankful for my beloved, our family, and the One who gives us breath, and the hope of our salvation. Goodnight.