Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Letter to Josiah, my Kindergartner



Well, things have been quite silent on the blog lately, and for that I apologize. I will make no promises that activity will pick up, but did want to celebrate Josiah's first day of Kindergarten yesterday! He was so excited beforehand and even more excited afterwards, exclaiming 5 minutes after we got home, "I'm bored! I wish I was back at Kindergarten!" Guess he had a great time.

One of the things I've committed to doing is to writing letters to my kids at different milestones (i.e. birthdays, firsts, etc.) and wrote Josiah a letter yesterday morning that I thought I'd share with you of the 5 things I'm praying for him.
Dear Josiah,
Today is your first day of Kindergarten and I couldn't be more excited for you. I know you are going to love school and all the great things that you are going to get to learn. As you start school, there are a number of things I am praying for you.
First of all, I am praying that you remember the things that Mommy and Daddy have taught you so far. Our goal has been to teach you the ways of Jesus our Savior. He is the only One worth following, so follow Him alone.
Secondly, I am praying that you forget or correct many of the things Mommy and Daddy have taught you. We are not perfect and have taught you things through our example that we wish you hadn't learned. This is why we point you to Jesus and plead with you to follow Him.
Next, I am praying that, like Jesus, You will be a servant. Jesus said that He didn't come to be served, but to serve and that is what I pray you will do. Everything in our flesh and in our world tells us to seek what you can get from others, but I plead with you to seek out what you have to give to others and experience the joy that comes from giving.
Fourth, I pray that as you follow Christ, and as you serve, that you will lead. Even now, I pray you learn to be a strong and humble leader. As you follow Christ, Josiah, the world will see your good works and look to glorify you. Have none of it! Give the glory to Christ and lead others to follow Him.
Lastly, I pray that above all, you will learn to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. He alone satisfies, son. No one and nothing else will give you that, though many will say they can. Listen to God's Word, trust in it, don't lean on your own understanding, and let Him direct your path. I'm proud of you, Josiah.
Love, Daddy

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Heading Back to Ethiopia!

This has to be one of my favorite pictures of all time, one that was taken as Brandy and I went with Peter of Children's HopeChest to visit his ministry, Compassion Family Ministry, back in May when we were in Ethiopia. This little girl was an absolute handful, but so full of joy and fun and laughter.

Tomorrow, I get to hop on a plane and head back to Ethiopia with a couple of teams of single adults from our church, Watermark Community Church. I have been missing Ethiopia so much, but have had the joy of knowing I would be heading back there in July, and now it's here and I couldn't be more excited. Our team has a trip blog that I wanted to let you know about so you could follow along with me there. We'll be able to post updates via satellite from the field. Rather than tell you all about the trip, just go to http://watermarkinafrica.blogspot.com where I've already written 3 blog posts about the trip, what it is, who we're ministering to, how we're going about it, etc. I'll post a couple more times before I leave to introduce people to the team.

The bitter-sweet element of the trip is that I leave Brandy and the kids back here for several days. We are so blessed to have such as amazing community around us and neighbors who will be looking out for her and them. Please pray for Brandy and I both. Thanks for tracking along with us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Welcome Home, Fournets!

A key factor in our decision to adopt from Ethiopia specifically was the fact that one family in our community group was already in the process to bring home kiddos from Ethiopia. We were excited about the opportunity to raise our kids together and for them to have that connection (We now have 3 families in our community group adopting from Ethiopia). At long last, our sweet friends, the Fournets, are home with their little ones, Beck and Deshi and we had the chance yesterday to introduce them to Malachi.

We're so happy for you guys, Beau and Natalie, and grateful for your friendship.

Malachi and Beck, destined to be best buds


Malachi and Deshi . . . who's up for arranged marriage?

If you're not already following their blog, you can check out the Fournets blog at http://fournetfamily.blogspot.com/. Also, continue to pray for the Tuckers who are waiting to hear back on their next court date. They were delayed again last week. You can follow their blog at http://thetuckerfamilylife.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meeting the Rest of the Family

We just got back Sunday from a great weekend with my family celebrating my sister's wedding to the man we now know as Uncle James (welcome to the family!). It was a great way for us to get to introduce Malachi to some more of his new family. Here are videos of Malachi getting to meet his Aunt Nikki (my sister), Uncle Matt (my brother), Aunt Kristen (his wife) and cousin Grayson.








We also got to take Malachi to the beach for the first time. He was absolutely fearless, walking straight towards the ocean as soon as we set him down on the beach. There have been so many moments since we returned that I am struck with the contrast of what he is experiencing and what the orphans we met in Ethiopia experience every day. They'll likely never see the ocean or anything like it. I wrestle with what to do with that other than to encourage anyone and everyone to pray and consider whether God might be calling you to bring one of these sweet kiddos home and give them a life they can't imagine today. Enjoy Mally enjoying the beach.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gladney Foster Center & Our Adoption

The second day we were in country in Ethiopia, we had the chance to go to the foster center where Malachi had stayed the bulk of his time. It was such a great thing to experience as we got to see the house he knew as home, meet the kids who were his friends, and especially get to spend time with the caretakers. Each of the kids has one or two main caregivers who call themselves the kids' "special mother." Malachi's "special mother" was a wonderful lady named Geti (sp?) who you see in the video. It was clear how much Malachi loved her from the way his face lit up the moment we walked into the compound and saw her. This was probably the first time we got to see his playful, happy personality (though it is on full display in our home today) as you could tell he was so much more comfortable.

While on the trip, I had the chance to read Dr. Russell Moore's book "Adopted for Life" which is an absolute must read. In it he describes his experience of taking his boys from the orphanage in Russia by saying, "They'd never seen the sun, and they'd never felt the wind. They had never heard the sound of a car door slamming or felt like they were being carried along a road at 100 miles an hour. I noticed that they were shaking and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance . . . I whispered to Sergei, now Timothy, 'That place is a pit! If only you knew what's waiting for you -- a home with a mommy and a daddy who loves you, grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and playmates and McDonald's Happy Meals!' But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid, but they had no other reference point. It was home." He goes on to say, "My whispering to my boys, 'You won't miss that orphanage' is only a shadow of something I should have known already. Our Father tells us that we too are unable to grasp what's waiting for us -- and how glorious it really is. It's hard for us to long for an inheritance to come, a harmonious Christ-ruled universe, when we've never seen anything like it . . . We must learn to be children, not orphans . . . [but] we don't fully believe that our new Father will feed us, so we hang on to our scraps and long for the regimented schedules of the orphanage from which we've come. And when our Father pushes us along to new tastes, we pout that he's not good to us. But he's readying us for glory, preparing us to take our place on thrones as heirs."

I read this with the image of Malachi with the workers fresh in my mind, how he latched on to them, how he playfully ran from us to the safety of their arms, and how in that moment, he chose the care of orphanage workers over the care of his mommy and daddy. It was so much fun to watch the slow transition that week we were in Ethiopia when he stopped reaching for African women, any African woman, rather than staying in Brandy's arms, and to think of where he is now, where those same faces you see in the video that he made with those workers are the faces we see every morning when we walk in to get him out of his crib.

My prayer is that I will increasingly grow in my love for my true Father, rejecting the old ways of the orphanage of my sin and flesh, that my life will delight in walking in His ways even when they don't make sense to me, and that I will grow in my longing for the day when my adoption is complete.

Enjoy the video!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Favorite Videos

We took a lot of video the week we were in Ethiopia and I'm determined to get some of my favorites up this week. I'll just start with "The Moment" for now. This was when Travis, who works with Gladney, brough Malachi to us at the house and we met him for the first time. Wagayu, our host at the guest house where we stayed, is filming and his hands were less than steady, shall we say, but he caught the moment for us which was great.

It was such a surreal moment for sure . . . this was less than an hour from the time we got out of the airport in Addis, and we were shocked that this moment happened so soon, but obviously overjoyed. Enjoy the moment.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pictures from Week 1: Getting Settled In

It's been a good first week and we're starting to get settled into a bit of a routine. Mally is doing great and seems to be taking everything in stride. He's moved from sleeping in our room the first few nights to sleeping in his new room with Josiah the last few nights. We've had the chance to introduce him to many of our friends and took him to church this morning and shared some sweet moments with friends praying for him and thanking God for him. Then this afternoon we got to join our friends, the Fournets, for a birthday party and Malachi got his first chance to take on a swimming pool. He was very chill and relaxed with all of the kids. Here's a few pictures from our first week.

Josiah and Selah love their new little brother. They're like two kids with a new toy at Christmas. Most of the time that's a good thing.

PawPaw and Malachi, plus Vanna with the sign in the back.

MawMaw and Mally . . . what a great couple!

Enjoying his first bath at home

Now that's a smile!

Daddy and Mally in the pool.


Just chillin'

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

God Spoke to Me






OK, so I've never heard the audible voice of God, to the best of my knowledge, but one of the coolest moments from the trip was about the closest I think I've ever been to it.






As we made plans for our time in Addis Ababa, it was really important to us that we take in as much of the sights and sounds of what God is doing for orphans in that city as possible and towards that end, we hooked up with Children's HopeChest who recently started doing sponsorships of orphanages in Ethiopia. So, as I said in one of the posts on the trip, we spent a considerable amount of time with Peter Abera, their country director and loved hearing his story, his heart, and then getting to see what God was doing through their ministry in the lives of orphans. We also set aside funds especially for the purpose of blessing those orphans and their caregivers in whatever way God would have us.






The first day we met Peter, as I said, the orphans were not at the orphanage because it was a holiday. This particular orphanage, the Kichene orphanage, is a private orphanage that is very much Christ-centered. The kids do not live at the orphanage, but live either with a legal guardian, a single parent, or perhaps even both parents who are simply too poor to care for their children adequately. They come to school every day where they are fed breakfast and lunch and sent home with a snack in case they don't get dinner that night. The school is led by great Christian men and women with a passion for children and a commitment to teaching them about Christ in addition to their school learning and life skills training.






As we toured the school and saw the classrooms, at some point, Brandy asked about their books. We saw some lying around, but mostly old and worn and not very many of them. Peter said in response, that yes, these were their books and that they needed new ones. For whatever reason, I remembered that moment vividly and remembered thinking, "I wonder what we could do about that." When we returned for the party the next day, it was clear that the Lord wanted us to use some of the money we had set aside to purchase some books for the children. I approached Peter and asked about where we could get books and when we could do it before we left. He spoke with Nicodemus, the director of that orphanage, and his response blew me away. He said that just that morning, the government had dropped in on the orphanage to do some kind of inspection. During that time, they mentioned to him the shortage of books and told him if they didn't get new books, the orphanage would be shut down. He then said, "You must have been listening to God!"






That was it! I'm telling you, not one person there mentioned this to me prior to it, nor did Peter in some manipulative way point out the pitiful collection of books. God in His providence laid that on our hearts so that we could be used of Him to meet that need. What an amazing moment! We went Monday, bought a ton of books and had the joy of delivering them to the children that morning. Their hugs and kisses and shouts in Amharic-accented English of "Thank You!" were far more precious than any book we gave, so we walked away the blessed ones.
I was reminded of one of my new heroes of the faith, a guy named George Mueller. I beg you to take some time and listen to John Piper's biographical sketch of this great man of God (you can find it here http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/1531_George_Muellers_Strategy_for_Showing_God/). Mueller said that his primary aim in caring for orphans was not first and foremost the care of orphans in and of itself, but rather to show believers, all of whom discouragingly struggle with trusting God, that God can be trusted. That was it! That was his main reason for caring for orphans, because if God could take a poor man like him and care for the very least of these in ways only explained by God, perhaps it would increase the faith of others so that they might begin to take God at His word. O how my faith was increased this week, even as it has been increased each step of the way through this journey. Take some time to watch and listen to the songs of these children in the video below and pray that the Lord will increase your faith as a result.


Home with My Family of 5

Well after 28 hours of security, airplanes, buses to the next terminal, more airplanes, immigration, customs and two claims for lost bags (got one back this morning and another on the way this afternoon), we made it home last night. The remainder of our time in Ethiopia was full of adventure that I'll catch you up on in posts to come. We enjoyed great time with the families from Gladney, took in another orphanage where we threw another party for them and the workers, returned to Kichene to drop off a delivery (post to follow this one and likely the coolest story of our trip), and took one day (Sunday) just to do nothing but love on Malachi and try to relax before what we knew would be a long trip home.

Our flight yesterday left Addis Ababa at 4:05 a.m. local time, which meant our driver picked us up at 1:30 a.m. so we could make it to the airport by 2:00 and get checked in. Fortunately, both the BMI flight and the American Airlines flights we took coming home were much better than the ones we endured on the way there, so although we spent about 20 hours of the day yesterday in a plane, it wasn't too bad. Once we arrived in Dallas, everything went about as smooth as it could through immigration and customs, and though they lost two of our bags, it wasn't that big a deal and we finally got to step through the international doors and onto U.S. soil with little Malachi for the first time.

We were greeted by a great cheer from family and friends who came out and stayed long last night to welcome us home, which was so sweet. We especially loved Josiah and Selah's reaction to Malachi as well as all the other kids who were there to welcome us home. The video below captures the moments where Josiah and Selah got to meet Mally for the first time. The quality of the filming is awful as I had my hands full and was sleep deprived, but you get the best moments in between the other stuff.

All of that to say, we're home and we're now officially a family of 5. I am certain that Brandy and I have no clue what is ahead of us, but we couldn't be more excited to find out. Malachi is doing great, and responded really well to both Josiah and Selah. No hesitation in this boy as he continues to get more and more comfortable. We can't wait to introduce him to so many of you who have played such a huge role in this process.

We also pray that our continued pursuit of adoption (this won't be our last) will compel others to consider the same and to take on this most joyfully holy task of bringing orphans into families. It was only fitting that this morning in my time alone with the Lord and as we continue on The Journey, that our reading was from Psalm 68, quoted on the front page of this blog. He does in fact place the lonely in families. The question is, will He call you to be the family for a lonely person and if He does, will you respond by saying, "Not my will, but Yours be done?" I cannot begin to tell you the joy of responding that way to His call.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Orphanages and Malachi’s Aunt

The last few days have been incredibly full, so I haven’t been able to make it to the Hilton to get on the internet. Thursday morning, we got to take a tour of the Holy Trinity Church, one of the centers of worship for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The history here is so rich and so ancient, it’s pretty amazing. Belay, who is the country director for Gladney here in Ethiopia, was kind enough to come and act as our tour guide. What made this more special is that Belay’s father was the Commander in Chief of the Imperial Guard in the 70s before the Derg Regime (communist) came into power. When they came and conquered the Ethiopian Emperor, Belay’s father and 59 others were sentenced to death and killed by firing squad. They are now entombed at the Holy Trinity Church and there is a really nice monument to them there as national heroes and martyrs. Pretty cool stuff.

After that, we met up with Peter Abera of Children’s Hope Chest and he took us around to a couple of the orphanages that Hope Chest sponsors. The children don’t live at these orphanages, but do come there for school and for meals every day, but they weren’t there on Thursday because it was a national holiday (one of 29 on the year). We were bummed but made plans to come back the next day.

After a short rest, we went with all of the Gladney families in country to pick up their kiddos to an Ethiopian cultural dinner. The food was just like the Ethiopian food we like so much in Dallas but it was accompanied by music and cultural dancing. If you want to know where the dance style “Pop & Lock” (see So You Think You Can Dance) got it’s beginning, pretty sure it was from ancient Ethiopia. It was a long day, but so much fun.

Yesterday was by far my favorite day so far. We started off by getting the chance to meet Malachi’s aunt at the Gladney Center. It was a very sweet moment, while at the same time a very sad moment. She clearly wanted to hold Malachi, but he didn’t recognize her and clung desperately to Brandy. In the long run, that’s a good thing, but I can only imagine how tough that must have been for her. We had the chance to ask her some questions and for her to do the same through 3 way translation (English to Amharic to whatever language she spoke). We told her we were Christians and she was thrilled to hear that. She is a Protestant (7th Day Adventist) and was so thankful to know that Malachi would grow up hearing about Jesus. I got to pray with her and we exchanged the traditional 3 kisses (believers do this to symbolize the Trinity). We got the whole thing on video which will be such a good thing for Malachi as he gets older.

Speaking of Malachi, he’s doing great. He still has moments where he looks shocked that we are still there, especially after he has been with a caregiver. But we are doing a lot of attachment work with him and are being rewarded with smiles, giggles and snuggles. He is finally eating(after about four days of eating almost nothing except bottles) and so that is a relief. He sleeps like a champ and has not woken up in the night. The doctor told us yesterday that he has tonsillitis, but you wouldn’t know it as happy as he is apart from the congestion and cough at night. He’s really bonded well with Brandy, always looking for her and reaching for her if someone else is holding him, and he’s starting to warm up to me. Mostly, he just thinks I’m funny, which is great with me. One of the funniest things about him is that he knows how to whistle. Josiah will be so jealous!

After meeting Mally’s aunt, Travis, from Gladney, took us and the other families to the Gladney orphanages, specifically Kolfe and another orphanage we can’t say much less spell. We have mixed emotions about the whole thing. On one hand, getting to interact with the orphans was great. Kolfe is an older boys home, so they followed us around and we spent about 10 minutes playing American football with them, and teaching them to throw the football. They told us how much they like Beyonce and one boy even sang a Beyonce song for me(I got it on video!). They all wanted our email, so I’ll have a bunch of random emails from guys at the orphanage when I get back. The other orphanage was a co-ed home for younger children. We got to hold babies, and play on the playground with the other kids. One of the little girls who was hearing impaired latched on to Brandy and wouldn’t let go. One of the saddest things is that Brandy asked what her name was, and one girl answered that the deaf child did not have a name. She was very sweet and just grinned at her the whole time. Another of the girls braided Brandy’s hair (Belay suggested I let them do the same to me . . . the kids are totally freaked and laugh at my baldness). While we loved the boys and the children, the condition of the homes is not at all ideal and there seems to be very little structure other than feeding them and trying to educate them. We are glad there is something for them, but pray that something will be done for these orphanages to improve and to set these children up for success (I may write more in another blog post since this one is already crazy long and I’m not done).

Lastly, and the highlight of our trip apart from Malachi, we returned to the Kichene orphanage that Peter had taken us to the day before and Brandy and I got to throw a party for them. We were so impressed with the staff at the orphanage. One of the teachers, a young man, was absolutely incredible with the kids, engaging, funny, and energetic as he told them stories about Jesus and sang songs with them. The singing of the children was exuberant and so much fun to watch. Peter then asked me to teach them from God’s Word, so I spoke about the wise man and the foolish man from Matthew 7 and then taught them the song. Afterwards, they fed the children and gave each one a soda, a treat for them, and then we joined them in the meal. Again, I can’t overstate how impressed I was with Peter, Nicodemas, the director of this orphanage, and so many others. They clearly love these children and have a vision for them to know and love Jesus in addition to setting them up for success as they get older and leave the orphanage. Please join me in praying for Nicodemas and the others who are working at Kichene and for the children, that they would grow to love and follow Jesus. As the children left, we were swamped with kisses and hugs that make your heart happy. I love the delight that the Lord gives us as He delights in us when we join Him in what He is doing around the world.

OK, sorry for the long post. Lots to say and catch up on. There is no way to describe all that we saw or felt today, but we look forward to telling you all about it when we get home. Today, we are going to go shopping at the market and then we’re hoping to take it easy for the rest of the day and for tomorrow as well. Still not done here in Ethiopia, so we’ll see you soon!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 2: Visiting the Foster Center and Embassy Appointment

We’re almost to the end of day 2 and it’s been great. The end of the day yesterday was spent with us getting to know Malachi a little better. Daddy and Mally got to play for a long while just the two of us so he could get used to me. He still prefers Mommy over Daddy, but I’m OK with that.

This morning when we woke up, Malachi acted like he was in shock that we were still here. I think he expected to wake up to the usual hustle and bustle of the orphanage. After we ate breakfast we walked to the Gladney Foster Center, which is literally a block over. In fact, one of the homes is on our little street. It was so great to see the caregivers and their love for the kids. We met Beti, Malachi’s “special mother” which is what they call the primary caregiver for each child. He loved her and we really got to see his personality when he was at the foster home. He is still pretty reserved around us, as you can imagine. One of the best moments was when we got to see his room and the crib that he stayed in. The picture book we had sent him was there and Beti picked it up to show him and when he saw the pictures of Brandy and I he said, “Mama” and “Papa.” I think he made the connection with us as Mama and Papa after that, though he obviously doesn’t fully understand what that means yet. It was a great moment. It was really tough on him, and on all the kids, when the caregivers gave the kids back to their families. Malachi kept reaching for the door after we left, which is such an encouraging sign of just how well he’s been cared for by them.

We also got to see the other foster care centers including the one that the Fournet’s twins are at. It was so great to see them and we are praying especially hard that we get to see them again very soon back in Dallas. We weren’t able to see the Tucker’s little boy, but Travis who works for Gladney, was nice enough to take the package to him and to shoot some video of him that we will bring back to Cary and Sarah.

After that, they did a coffee ceremony for all of the Gladney families which was great. They roast the beans in front of you over a little pit of hot coals, and then grind the beans by hand. The coffee was amazing (at least I liked it). Afterwards, we all went to lunch together and then headed out to the Embassy. I was pretty nervous about that, just praying that we hadn’t forgotten some little piece of paperwork. All went well and the Embassy worker congratulated us and sent us on our way.

Today has been great to meet the other adoptive families. We sat next to a really nice family from North Carolina at lunch and got to know them and their journey to adoption. While waiting at the Embassy, I had a great conversation with Jed, who is the Director of the Christian Alliance for Orphans out of California. We had a great talk about all things related to orphan care and churches. He is just getting started in this post, so it will be great to get to know him better over the next couple of days.

Tomorrow, we will tour Holy Trinity Church here in Addis and then Brandy and I are going to meet up with Peter Abera, the country director for Children’s HopeChest here in Ethiopia. We are excited to see the work they are doing here in Addis caring for orphans and connecting the local churches to that cause.

All in all, it’s been a great day and we’re looking forward to the rest of our time here, though we’re anxious to get home. Thanks again for checking in and we’ll try to update again tomorrow.

Wes, Brandy, and Malachi

P.S. We posted a few pics on Facebook. Click here to see.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meeting Malachi

Well we finally made it to Addis after what seemed like the longest plane trip ever. The flight itself was smooth, but the combination of very little space, a warm cabin, and some rather loud Navy personnel who were enjoying themselves a little too much throughout the evening, made for a very long trip with very little if any sleep. But it all fades into a very distant past in light of what I look at as I’m typing this – little Malachi taking a nap with his mommy.

After we arrived at the airport, there were no delays with immigration or customs and we met up with Travis from Gladney who introduced us to our driver, Yasoo (probably a very horrible spelling). We made a quick stop a grocery store to get some water, juice and soda and then we got to the Ayat House where we are staying this week. Mr. Waradu (sp?) showed us around this very beautiful house that is just a block from Gladney’s foster home and we got settled in briefly and took showers.

Then, the moment came. Travis arrived with Malachi and he’s absolutely beautiful, but very uncertain of what he’s doing with these white people. He reluctantly went to Brandy, but refused to come to me once he had latched on to her. The entire time he seemed to be on the verge of tears as he looked around, and I’m pretty sure if I’d taken him away from Brandy that would have pushed him over the edge. Eventually, he fell asleep in Brandy’s arms and only then did I get to hold him. He and I took a short nap together before I went to order us some lunch and now he’s sound asleep with Brandy again.

That moment is such a strange one, but so fun as well. You can see the absolute terror in his eyes as he’s handed to these strange people who introduce themselves as Mommy and Daddy. He never did really burst into tears until Daddy reached over and tickled his belly a little and that pushed him over the edge. He didn’t cry for long, but I said, “Soon that will be one of your favorite things.” Funny how that works. Pray that he adjusts well to us and that all goes well tomorrow at the Embassy.

Thanks for checking in.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hello from London

Well, we thought we'd update the blog last night at the hotel until we realized it would cost us $50 US to get on the Internet. Nothing is cheap in London and little is free. Just found this Waffle House with free wifi. So, I'm updating from my iPhone which means this will be short.

We got here safely yesterday around noon, got checked into the hotel and then went to Picadilly Circus yesterday just to look around. We were proud of ourselves for navigating the buses and tube system without getting lost. We had Indian food for dinner which was awesome. That came at the recommendation of many of our friends. We pushed through the jet lag yesterday and slept ok last night, although Brandy woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep.

Today we are taking a bike tour of London with my friends from Fat Tire Bike Tours. We did this last year with our Burundi team during our layover and had a blast so I'm excited to take Brandy this time and do the full tour. Looks like we'll be doing taking the tour in the rain as we watch it fall from the sky right now. Oh well, they do the tour rain or shine, so we will too.

All this is a fun passing of the time until our flight at 9:30 tonight. Can't wait. Hoping to meet Malachi within 24 hours. Hard to believe.

Thanks for checking in and we'll keep you posted.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Leaving Today

Well, there he is and we're just a few short (or more likely long) days away from meeting him face to face. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity both getting ready for this trip and just living life in the midst of this short waiting period. Brandy would say that the 4 weeks notice we were given was too long, and to a certain extent I agree with her, but once again, the Lord worked out the timing so perfectly and there is not a better day to hop on that plane than today.

We are going to do our best to post to the blog while we're there and update you on different events. Pictures will have to wait until we get back because the internet cafes operate at dial-up speed. I talked to a friend who said it took 3 hours to download 20 pictures . . . we can wait.

We'd love your prayers for us and specifically for us to be able to relax and enjoy this experience. There is a lot of temptation to grow anxious about everything from travel to the Embassy appointment to leaving the kids here and even the meeting of Malachi, so pray that the Lord will give us peace in the midst of this time so we can enjoy this celebration.

We thought it would be fun to have the kids shoot a video for Malachi that we can show him when we're there to introduce themselves to him. Don't tell Josiah, but Selah's video was the best! Thanks again for following along and keep checking in for more news!!!



Friday, May 8, 2009

15 Days and counting...

We leave on the 23rd of May to get our sweet boy. We were excited to be able to schedule a long layover in London, so we will get to take a bike tour of the city while we are there. The last week has been fun and stressful, trying to get ready to leave. Our kids are so excited, but a little nervous too. Josiah has a major meltdown on Wed and he told me later "I am just very sad and un-patient for Malachi to come home "....manipulative or self aware? Who knows, but it was sweet. I am "un-patient" too!

As Mother's Day approaches, it is bittersweet...I think about my children and how much delight they bring me. I think back to past mothers days when it was so painful to NOT be a mother. I think about my children's genetic/biological mothers and wonder what that day is like for them. I think about sweet friends who long to be mothers or who have lost children this year. I think about all the moms in my family and in my circle of friends and I am grateful for each one of them. Being a mom is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I continually pray that my children will grow up saying that I loved them, that I loved their father, and most importantly, that I loved Jesus. There is nothing I want for my kids more than for them to have a relationship with Christ and to become like Him. It is such a blessing to see that happening already- today I was frustrated because the kids were playing in the kitchen and I was trying to get some things done and I spoke to Josiah, but it was not a very nice tone of voice. I was not concerned about their heart, I just wanted them out of the kitchen! Josiah approached me and very sweetly said "mommy, can you try next time to use kind words?" OUCH- but true. I apologized and asked for his forgiveness. He forgave me and said "I know it is hard to remember"- that made me laugh!

So Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and moms in waiting!

Monday, April 27, 2009

He's Ours!!!

Introducing Malachi Wesley Butler!!! We just got word that we passed and will be traveling sometime around May 25th. More later, but we thought we'd let the blogging world see his picture. Enjoy!








Thursday, April 23, 2009

Orphans in Ethiopia

As we anxiously wait for everything to be finalized with our adoption, we've been tracking this week with Tom Davis of Children's Hope Chest. I've had the privilege of having lunch with Tom and am grateful for his heart, vision, and passion for orphans. He left last week on a vision trip to Ethiopia as they look for more orphanages in need of support and sponsorship and has been posting stories and pictures on his blog all this week. Please take some time to read through a couple of the stories from his trip to better understand the plight of orphans there and the needs both for more families to adopt as well as for followers of Christ to care for orphans. We've not all been called to adoption, but we've all been commanded to care for widows and orphans.

Here are the two posts that have moved me most this week.
http://tomdavis.typepad.com/tom_daviss_blog/2009/04/the-mighty-one-has-done-great-things-for-me.html

http://tomdavis.typepad.com/tom_daviss_blog/2009/04/the-poorest-of-the-poor.html

And I join Tom in praying this morning, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good News and Bad News

Good news first-
Our case went to court today and all parties(the judge and MOWA) seemed to approve of the adoption

Bad News-
His aunt did not bring her identification with her, and the judge could not rule without her having it. She was instructed to come back on monday with her id and the judge would make a final ruling.

We are bummed, but hopeful and thankful that we don't have to wait for a brand new court date to be scheduled.

Thanks to all of you who are praying for us- we appreciate it so much!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Hurdle Down, One Day to Go

We said today that no news was good news, meaning that MOWA (Ministry of Orphan and Widow Affairs) in Ethiopia could stop the court date today before it started if they didn't have everything they needed/wanted and that we would hear from Gladney in all likelihood today if that was the case. Well, it is now 5:15 and I hope that means its safe to say this will be a no news day.

So, pray for tomorrow, that the judge would rule in favor of our adoption, that our little boy's aunt would have a safe trip to Addis and sign the appropriate documents and that Brandy and I would be able to breathe/sleep in between now and when we hear something tomorrow. Praying for good news and a travel date in a few weeks.

One fun thing from today is that we got our monthly update and got a new picture of our little guy wearing an outfit that Josiah used to wear and that we sent over with some folks a few weeks ago. Can't wait to see him in person!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where to stay?

This week has been a whirlwind of activity! The to-do list is long, but we are trying to slowly get to all of it, and we continue to pray that court will go smoothly on Wed. Today I spent the morning searching garage sales for a dresser and the afternoon painting two twin beds.

Tonight I am researching different places to stay- we know we want to stay in a guest house, but there are so many choices! I would like to have our own bathroom, but other than that, I don't have any major preferences.

The ones I have looked at are-
New Flower Guest House
Oziopia Guest House
Addiskidan Baptist House
Ayat Guest House
Sidama Guest Lodge
Z Guest House
Weygoss Guest House

I am sure there are others- anyone have any experience or recommendations?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Never a Normal Adoption: Ruining the Grading Curve

You know that kid who always ruined the grading curve in class with their more than above average test score? When it comes to adoption, I'm pretty sure Brandy and I are that kid. Through our first two adoptions (see one of the first posts on the blog), we've had to tell people, "Our story is not a good example of normal" and once again it looks like that might be the case.

We got word today that we do have a court date set, which was a little early but not unheard of to hear something three weeks after our referral. Then they told us the date. Average time to wait once court date is set is anywhere from 7 to 12 weeks, but not for the Butlers. Our court date is set for a week from tomorrow, April 22nd!!!!!! We're in shock. There's always the possibility that we won't pass court and will have to wait for another date, but if we do pass, we'll be traveling to pick the little guy up sometime in the month of May.

We're stunned, but excited. Please join us in praying for those involved in the decision making process there, for his aunt who will have to be at the hearing on the 22nd to sign the needed papers, and for our little guy to get to come home very soon. Grateful for all of your prayers and support to this point. We'll update you next week when we hear something.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Building the Church Through Adoption

My daily reading through God's Word usually encompasses about three different sections of Scripture. Right now I am working my way through Job, the minor prophets, and the Gospel of Matthew. Some mornings that results in a handful of lessons learned, but every once in a while, the Spirit generously lines things up just right and it all fits together like a beautiful puzzle. Today was one of those days. Job 31 is one of Job's rants in the midst of his suffering and is, to a certain extent, a distasteful self-justification. However, the thing about the book of Job for me is you have to pick out the redeeming statements in the midst of a context that is less than ideal (in this case, showing that you deserve better from God because you do good things . . . not recommended). Nevertheless, here is what Job said in vs. 16-23 of chapter 31: "If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary, if I have kept my bread to myself, not sharing it with the fatherless -- but from my youth I reared him as would a father, and from my birth I guided the widow -- if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing, or a needy man without a garment, and his heart did not bless me for warming him with fleece from my sheep, if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, knowing that I had influence in my court, then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint. For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of His splendor I could not do such things." Despite the context his statement, I was struck by the noble pursuit of Job to see the needs around him, to see his own provision from God, realize it wasn't his but God's and then give it and himself away to the fatherless, needy, and widow.

I followed that up with reading the first chapter of the short book of Haggai and came across this. "Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 'Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?' Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'" Haggai was appointed by God to stir the hearts of the Israelites to rebuild the temple, the place where God's glory was to dwell and pointed out their faulty use of resources to build their own homes, fill their own stomachs, and pad their own savings accounts.

The translation for today is this: God's temple is the hearts of His people, His church and as His church, His children, we are commissioned with this work of building His church. Yet we are prone to focusing our time and attention on establishing our own kingdoms known as comfort, ease, pleasure, and independence. What Haggai points out to the Israelites of His day, is becoming more and more clear for me today, that the Church is in desperate need of being built, so what must I sacrifice to build it. Adoption is not a cheap or priceless venture, and I'm not talking financially (although I could). It is choosing to bring another person into our home, to endure all that he will bring with him in the way of rebellion, selfishness, and pride for the sake of introducing Him to Christ and His ways that he might be one more brick in the glory that is God's church. How many more will we adopt? Not sure, but the Lord knows. What I do know is that those who call themselves the church should be on the alert for how we should support the fatherless, either through adopting ourselves or supporting Christ-followers who do so. The fatherless of today are part of the temple God is constructing for His glory and we must not be guilty of padding our lifestyle, feeding our faces, or stuffing our leaking purses while the temple is yet to be built. My takeaways . . .

This is consistent with a few sermons from one of my current heroes of the faith, Francis Chan that I would point you to and challenge you with. Go to http://www.cornerstonesimi.com/special/media_player.html and listen to Chan's messages from March 8th and 15th to be challenged along with me in this area. Well worth your time. And if you haven't read "Crazy Love" by him, you need to. http://www.crazylovebook.com/

Praying you are challenged with me today.

Texas Bluebonnets

We had a great Easter weekend as a family. On Saturday, we spent the day driving down to Ennis, TX to enjoy the Bluebonnet trails there and get some great pictures. Here are a few of my favorites from the day.



Brandy and I both said at one point during the day, that as much fun as this was, we both felt a very real sense in which this wasn't the whole family and we missed the chance to share this experience with our little boy. We can't wait to introduce him to Texas bluebonnets among so many other things. It is a sweet sorrow!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Josiah's Historical Soccer Day

Last week our soccer game was cancelled again due to weather and Josiah cried like a baby. This week, prior to the game, Josiah declared that he would in fact score a goal this week. His predicition proved to be true, but a little modest. He did score his first goal this week and then proceeded to score 4 more!!!! 5 goals total. I got video on the camcorder of the first 3, but don't know how (yet) to transfer that video to the computer, so you'll have to take my word for it. He was so excited, and I was really proud. Mommy missed it due to our family's battle with a stomach virus this weekend. She cried.

Afterwards, I told Josiah that I loved watching him score all of those goals, but that my favorite part of the game was when he had the opportunity to score again and instead, stepped back and let one of the little girls on the team take the shot (she missed).

We're in negotiations with Gatorade and Nike this week . . .

God's Word and Donuts

We've made it another couple of weeks through our Bible verse challenge. This week was a pause and review week, so no new verses, but in the excitement of the previous week, I didn't post videos of the kids verses from last week. So far, Josiah has memorized 10 verses in 5 passages: Deuteronomy 7:9; 10:12-13; Romans 11:34-36; 12:1-2; Psalm 56:3-4. Selah has memorized 6 verses: Genesis 1:1; Matthew 6:24; Proverbs 3:5; Psalm 1:6; Isaiah 30:15; 43:5. Each week as we pray and thank God for our donuts, we thank God that His Word is far better than donuts and that having His Word in our heart is the real prize.

Here are the videos from the last verses they've memorized. This week, we'll be working on Psalm 62:5-8 with Josiah and Psalm 119:105 with Selah. Join us if you'd like.

Psalm 62:5-8 "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour our your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge."

Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Here's the videos from the last few verses.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Is He the One?"

This morning I was reading in Matthew 11 as I work my way through the Gospel of Matthew and came upon the interaction that Jesus had with John the Baptist's (JTB) disciples where they asked him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" I love how Jesus replies: "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." There are a lot of layers to this whole thing, but my point in sharing this is that we have been blown away by how the Lord has provided for us at every turn in this process, especially financially. Adoption is no small undertaking financially and we didn't start this process because we had an abundance of extra cash laying around. We started this because the burden we had for the orphans of Ethiopia was far greater than the financial restraints of our situation and we were confident that the Lord would provide for us if this burden was truly of Him. As we prepared to accept the referral and get the ball rolling on next steps, the Lord once again provided exactly what we needed to be able to take that next step with confidence in His calling. If you want to hear the full back story on that, it's pretty remarkable, so just ask me when you see me.

Nevertheless, I look forward to the day when my son says, "Is He the One?" referring to Jesus, and I'll be able to tell him his adoption story and say, "Son, here is what I have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the good news is preached to the poor, and orphans are given homes. He is the One. Follow Him." We found out last night that our son's name means, "My messenger." I pray now that his life will testify to these great truths and that the gospel message will go forth proudly from his lips.

The other layer of this story that's worth noting is the discouragement of JTB as he sat in prison. We have some really close friends, the Fournets (http://fournetfamily.blogspot.com/) who are "imprisoned" right now by a longer than expected wait to bring their kiddos home and I'm sure there are many who I don't know who are discouraged by the same thing. I've been so encouraged by Beau and Natalie's determination to reflect often on what they have "seen and heard" as followers of Christ even in the midst of this heartache. The truth that "He is the One" is the greatest comfort in times of trouble, the greatest purpose in life, and the greatest hope for the future.

Join us in praying for the Fournets and reflect often on what you have seen God do in your life and in the lives of others.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Moment




At exactly 3:00 today (according to the iPhone records), Brandy called me and greeted me with, "Where are you?" Her tone was too excited to be anything else, so I think I said, "No way!" in response. Regardless, she had just received the call from Natalie, our case worker, that we had a referral, but Brandy hurriedly loaded the kids up and brought them up to the office so we could get on the phone together and see his picture for the first time together as a family. As I waited for her to get to there, I bounced around the office like a school kid telling anyone and everyone I could that I was about to "meet" my son for the first time. As usual, Jim Wimberley, my boss, prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and for the salvation of my little boy while others cried and hugged me. As soon as Brandy got there, we got on the phone with Natalie and she emailed several pictures along with his information. He is AWESOME!! He is 14 months, in good health, weighs about 20 pounds and is about 30 inches tall. We fell in love, all of us. Brandy cried. Selah asked where the pictures were of her baby sister (she's almost as anxious for the next one as her mommy is). When we heard that he was suffering from some eczema and "asthma-like" symptoms, Josiah's face lit up and he said, "I have eczema and asthma too!!!" Connection made, although a strange one, but it was cool to the little man. I sat in awe!

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, celebrating with anyone who was close to us, calling family and friends, thinking of baby names, and enjoying a great meal at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Queen of Sheba, with our friends the Tuckers. They received their referral a month and a half ago, and as we compared notes, we discovered that our boys were both from the same area, both placed in the same orphanage in that area, and both traveled from that orphanage to Gladney's foster home on the same day!!!! Crazy!!! By the time all is said and done, these two little guys will have traveled all the way from their little area in southern Ethiopia to Richardson, TX together . . . within blocks of each other. Mind-blowing!!!! We hope their journeys home won't be too far apart in time.
Everyone asked the same question today . . . "When do you get him?" There are a ton of variables in play, so the following information is educated guess at best based off of "normal" situations (which there are none of). Essentially, once we accept the referral, we wait 4 to 6 weeks to get a court date set and then another 6 to 8 weeks before the actual court date. Assuming we pass court the first time around, which is no guarantee, we will travel within a few weeks of that to go and pick him up in Addis and bring him home.
Lastly, I can't help but draw one parallel to my Heavenly Father in the midst of this. I was just thinking about how giddy (no other word for it) I was when I got the news, how my heart raced, how I practically skipped around the office looking for anyone to share the good news with, and how I know my face must have beamed with pride every time I mentioned, "My son." And I can't help but think about that day when my adoption that had been preordained before the beginning of time came to be in a moment of faith when I received His Son's sacrifice for me as means of eternal fellowship with my Father in His forever family. To think that His heart leapt, the Creator of the universe, for me is unfathomable!!! As great as this adoption day is for my son, I continue praying for him and all of my children, that they will experience an adoption day far greater than any I could offer with a far greater reward and inheritance from the Father of all the fatherless. He is Yahweh, the Great I Am, the Ancient of Days, the King of all Kings, and the Lover of my soul. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:36).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy 4th Birthday, Selah!



We have had a jam-packed weekend full of celebration where we could squeeze it in around Selah's battle with a cold. Poor thing scored her first full-blown cold of the season which was also accompanied by 4 days of rain and cold to postpone her birthday party for a week. It worked out kind of nicely and we're hoping for good weather next Saturday.





We were able to celebrate a little over the weekend with Mawmaw and Pawpaw (my parents) and made a trip to The Magic Time Machine on Saturday night for Selah's birthday dinner. She dressed up in full blown princess garb for the occasion and was fascinated by all of the characters, although her exposure to Heath Ledger's Joker provided great motivation to shorten our visit. Brandy reminded me that the last time we went to the Magic Time Machine (in San Antonio) was the night I proposed to her (no, it was not a part of the proposal plan). Here's a few more pictures of our time there.





Selah and Snow White


Selah, Daddy, and Cinderella


The rest of the princesses

After a busy Sunday, I took a vacation day today on Selah's actual birthday so we could all spend the day together without her being sick. So, we had some waffles for breakfast this morning, made a trip to the gym, and then tried out Amazing Jake's (like Chuck E. Cheese on steroids) for pizza, games, and rides. Here's a few pictures from our time.


Riding in the Space Ship





A Spin on the Carousel


Putt-putt golf lessons



We wrapped up the day by giving Selah her brand new bike and taking a few family laps around the park across the street. It was a perfect day today. We are a blessed family to have such a sweet girl be a part of it. Happy birthday, Princess!



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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Another Week, Another Verse, Another Donut

Well, we're three for three on donut days since we started our new tradition. Josiah and Selah both did a great job memorizing their verses this week. Here they are . . .


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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Josiah and Hockey


If you want to experience a hockey game like never before, you should really consider taking Josiah. I am not a hockey fan and prior to beginning a streak of attending 4 games with Josiah, I had only been to one game and wasn't that impressed. Then it began . . .

Josiah's first hockey game, a friend gave us her corporate tickets to the game: Front row up against the glass right behind the goalie. If that wasn't enough, on the night there were no less than 15 fights, the first of which was right in front of us ending with a pool of blood on the ice (I'm sure a good father wouldn't think that was a good thing, but it was pretty cool . . . and the guy was OK). We also ended up with a practice puck that one of the guys working on the ice gave us. Game 2: Another friend invites us and we end up in his company luxury box with all you can eat hot dogs, popcorn, fajitas, etc. Stars win! Game 3: Another buddy and his company's tickets treat us to a game. Great seats close to center ice and the Stars score 10 GOALS which they had never done since moving to Dallas in the early 90's! Crazy! Game 4: The very next week, the same buddy had a co-worker offer him his season tickets and he gave them to us. We're about 8 rows up, close to center ice, and about 5 minutes into the 3rd period, a puck goes flying into the air and lands under Josiah's seat. He picks it up, holds it up triumphantly, and the crowd goes wild!!! Amazing!!! Needless to say, Josiah is a HUGE hockey fan now.

So, if you're thinking of attending an NHL hockey game and you've got an extra ticket, give us a call and we'll loan Josiah and his mojo out. GO STARS!!!

Here's some pictures from the last game.


Celebrating a Stars goal


After "catching" the hockey puck


Showing the "Official Game Puck" stamp of the Dallas Stars





Monday, March 9, 2009

Memory Verses

We're trying to up our game as a family on memorizing Scripture. I still remember Scripture that I memorized as a young kid (in the King James Version, no less) and probably remember that Scripture better than stuff I am memorizing today, sorry to say. So, we wanted to get the kids involved in that. We ordered the Fighter Verses Packet from Children Desiring God (www.childrendesiringgod.org) and started that a couple of weeks ago. Our new tradition is that if you get your verse for the week, we get donuts on Sunday morning. Selah is working on the "Foundation Verses" and Josiah is doing the Fighter Verses with Brandy and I. Here's their work so far. Selah's version of Genesis 1:1 is priceless and very unique. Here you go.

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If you want to track along with us, Selah is working on Psalm 1:6 this week and the rest of us are working through Romans 11:34-36.

Josiah's First Soccer Game

So, this weekend was Josiah's first soccer game and he couldn't have been more excited, nor could we. He did great and it was so fun watching the game. He is already counting the "sleeps" until his next game on Saturday. Here's a few pictures from the day.

Getting ready for the game


Action shot!


Taking a breather


Cheering the team on!

Here's a short video of the first goal of the season for the Orange Crush! Ignore the father yelling at his son to get the ball. I don't know who that guy is . . .


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