Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Letting Him set the Pace

It is so easy for me to cross the line. I don't mean to, my heart just wants to help, my brain wants to figure out the plan and fix it, my will won't give us and keeps driving to accomplish it.

Sometimes that sounds like good attributes.

Desire, creative thinking and determination. Other times it looks like wanting my own way, kicking through road blocks God puts up for my protection and stubbornness.

Exhaustion is often the result when I let it look like the later. I find comfort in this verse from Romans 3: 28. It isn't about me figuring out the plan or leading the parade, it is about watching, listening and following what God is already doing. Being on the team. God's team.

What we've learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We've finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade. Romans 3:28

Being in step with God sounds carefree. It makes me think of Kaytlynn or Harrison walking between Shane and me, holding tightly to our hands and occasionally swinging their feet up in the air. It is peaceful. No worry about the course or the direction, just holding on tightly. No running ahead or falling behind, just in step, right on time.

Lord, help me to hold onto you tightly, to stay in step with you and to follow your lead and your pace. Amen

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New to our blog? Our story unfolding...

Our family has lived in Tualatin, OR for just over 10 years. We have always been passionate about sharing our love, our time and our resources with others who would be blessed by them. This year we have had our heart tugged in a very special way…just in time for Christmas.

I visited Ethiopia in July accompanying a dear friend who adopted a 4 year old boy. I had no idea how this trip would rock my world and drive me beyond where I have ever been with compassion for children, for those who are sick and for the devastated poor. When I returned, I chose not to forget, not to close my eyes, not to justify the extremes in which I had just been exposed to. My husband Shane, my daughter Kaytlynn (11) and my son Harrison (8) supported me and listened to countless stories, watched many videos and stared at the pictures with me. They chose to be moved inside.

We decided to start with what we could control…eliminating expenses and liquidating our treasures. We had a whole house garage sale and sold about 90% of our belongings. We leased our house and moved into a tiny apartment. We used the funds from the sale to buy plane tickets for Ethiopia on December 27th, just two days after Christmas. Since that time we have been making contact with NGO’s and non-profits already in Ethiopia serving the people.

Even without even seeing Ethiopia themselves yet, Kaytlynn and Harrison are volunteering to tell the story anywhere and to whomever will listen. They have been asking their friends to support them by collecting loose change and needed items to take with them on the trip.

Our hope is that we might be able to change the world for one. One child, one family, one community at a time. We hope to keep our eyes wide open and to Embrace Compassion rather than cover our head when the time comes to face the pain and suffering of the extreme poor in Ethiopia. There is one small community where we will spend some of our time, just outside the capitol city of Addis Abba Ethiopia. It is called Korah (Kore). Many of the locals do not even know this forbidden area that was once just for lepers. It now contains three generations, around 100,000 people, including babies and children scavenging for trash to eat. Orphans are overly abundant, unprotected and unseen.

We know that we may be one grain of sand on the beach or one drop of water in the ocean, but we will not use that as an excuse to not give who we are and what we have. As we have shared with our friends, we have found many others sharing the same hope and dreams for Africa. Many are giving in different ways of themselves and of their resources. We are not alone. The connections are deep and meaningful almost instantly as we are all fighting for something much bigger than ourselves. Much more important than a fancy Christmas tree or a big house.

We will be hosting an informational Christmas celebration complete appropriately with Ethiopian food, music and a story from a new Ethiopian friend who has just lived in the US himself for only 8 months. If you would like to know more how you can be involved or if you would like to share in this story unfolding, come see us at the Bridges Financial and Realty office in Sherwood on December 18th, 2010 at 7pm. If you would like a presentation in your classroom or at your office for the opportunity to make an impact for one, please contact Jen@bridgesfinancial.com. www.embracecompassion.blogspot.com as the story unfolds. Please find me on Facebook as Jennifer Bridges or Embrace Compassion.

Friday, November 26, 2010

my Christmas wish list

Kaytlynn and Harrison 2 days before Thanksgiving, with grandma & grandpa

Today my heart and my mind are full of thankfulness for a beautiful day looking back at this year and years past. I am thankful for my beautiful family. I am always amazed by how much each year looks so incredibly different from the year before.

In the last 12 months, we moved our family which constituted a new lifestyle in many ways, traveled across the world to fall in love with Ethiopia, my daughter started middle school, hired and trained a brand new full time assistant, made many significant new friends, sold 6 million dollars in real estate, began leading a small group bible study, started writing my blog and have become aware of poverty in a new and tangible way. Maybe there are more?

As the day has already closed and I am slow to relinquish it, I begin to think about Christmas. The final crescendo of the year. Only 2 days later we will be leaving for Ethiopia. The discussion this evening began of gifts and planning for Christmas.

Just now I began to think of my own list...if I could truly have whatever I want.

for my friend B. to be able to provide medicine for his blind mother in the leper colony.

clean water for Alex's mother in her hometown that has never known of a well.

restoration for broken relationship and past hurts.

my friends to be blessed by knowing of the blessing that comes from generosity.

understanding of culture that is so different than mine.

less need to drive the day and more opportunity to allow the day to pass on its own timing.

children to have people who love them and provide for their needs.

hope to be given for those with medical and special needs.

relief from poverty that devastates the very existence of someones soul.

Ultimately, for my "brother" and my "sister" to be given a future and a hope.

I hope you will pray with me that God will hear my request before him for the best Christmas ever. I pray the he will squish hearts that they might overflow with kindness and compassion toward those around them and around the world. I pray that my own heart my be soft enough to embrace my part. My will being surrendered to him and his gifts given to me, in whatever shape and size. I pray that he will do miracles above and beyond what make sense to to us in our human knowledge and that we might be amazed in his greatness despite our own insignifigant persons.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pros and Cons of Apartment Living from a Novice

If you have been following my blog, then you already know, after 15 years of marriage and with two awesome kids in tow we have moved into an apartment. We have had tons of questions from our friends and I'm sure some are curious so if you are, read on.

Why move into an Ethiopian Mansion (apartment)?
I guess to start with, we have said, Why Not? Our children have only lived in a primarily all white upper middle class suburbia. We believe that there can be so much gained by living among people who look, smell, think and act differently than we do. We certainly don't have it all together or know it all and by hanging out with others who think differently than we do, we might learn something valuable or at a minimum learn to appreciate how others are unique. Contrary to what we might have believed coming into this idea, the people who live around us are a lot more like us than we would have guessed. That may or may not be a good thing but it has helped us to break down our own stereotypes.

We were also hoping that we would all gain a new appreciation for what we have by living in a smaller space. We hoped it would draw us closer together as a family as we spend much of our time together in one room rather than spread throughout 3300 square feet.

Finally, if by chance we really might move to Ethiopia, we need to be a little less permanent and ready to go.

What are some of the downsides?
Well, it is probably the practical aspects of the actual apartment that is most irriating. I miss my clean, dry and warm car in the morning. The freezer pops open when you close the refrigerator. The fleas seem to be gone but we have only once lived on used carpet before and it is kind of gross. It never really seems clean. I can't find my clothes because even with Shane's fancy organizer system, the closet is just too small. It is kind of stinky and stuffy most of the time, as the air is difficult to circulate in a small space especially when it is cold and we don't have forced air heat. Hearing the neighbors go potty is a bit awkward. Because of limited space, I can't stock the pantry so more frequent shopping or simpler meals are needed.

What has been the best of the best?
Clark and James come to fix anything...really anything with just a little comment request filed online. No honey do list for Shane, no yard work. Everything cleans up really quickly...no need for our housekeeper.

The very best treasure about moving into this apartment has been new friends. Three darling girls that took us under their wing when we first moved in and have been so wonderful to befriend us and show us the ropes.

It is so much less expensive in so many ways. Because we have kept our other properties and just leased them out, we aren't loosing the tax advantage of owning property or the investment value of long term equity growth. I wouldn't recommend apartment living for the end all with no real estate investment. Apartment living is not an investment strategy. I penciled it out and in our same city a small house with current interest rates would be about the same payment as our apartment including the tax advantage.

How long will we stay?
I don't know. I hope that will be more clear after we return from our trip in January.

What do I miss?
I miss my gigantic bathtub and the microwave. We just don't have the counter space for a microwave. I miss my awesome neighbors, the Elders and the Callens. There is nothing that compares with their family friendship close by.

Are we crazy?
Maybe....The benefits have so outweighed the negatives so far. I know we will cherish this experiment forever.

Delighted to share some of our Favorites...

Please consider joining Shane and me this year for our Christmas Charity Dinner. I get so excited to share the evening with some of my favorite people, enjoy fabulous goodies and food and most importantly bubble with excitement over our very favorite charities.

In the spirit of our Ethiopia Trip just 2 days after Christmas, we thought it would be fun to host the evening with some Ethiopian flare...a little food, a little music and some of the best of the best in Addis Abba. We are going to highlight the groups we will be visiting, children you might want to consider sponsoring and a future trip you might like to participate in.

It will be a low pressure evening with the opportunity to give with Christmas in mind. Be prepared to catch the excitement of all that is already happening in Ethiopia. If all goes as planned, our very own "Alex" will be attending and sharing his personal story growing up in the countryside of Ethiopia.

Please do RSVP so we can plan on treats and seats! All are welcome...


15922 SW 2nd Street, Sherwood OR 97140

Friday, November 19, 2010

Miftah has no idea...

The lump in my throat wont go away. I walked into Mrs. Shelton's eager 1st grade classroom today. They remember Kaytlynn and Harrison and me from chapel. They were so curious as to why I was there. We gathered around the rocking chair for circle time and Mrs. Shelton graciously helped me tell the children....

Miftah was probably hungry today. He was probably struggling to live and to stay alive along with his family. He had no idea, across the world in Ethiopia, that this 1st grade classroom came together to sponsor him today. Miftah's world is about to be changed forever as well as the children in Mrs. Shelton's class.

The reality for me is overwhelming of how life for this one child will be changed forever.

I thought of the box of cookies I brought for the class...I gave the box to two of the students. They graciously agreed to share with the rest of the class. I believe God has given us in the United States a big box of cookies. Plenty for us and for others around the world. If only we would share our cookies, there would be plenty for everyone.

Would you consider sharing your cookies?

I am receiving special picture portfolios of children from Ethiopia. Would you help Kaytlynn and Harrison sponsor 100 Ethiopian children before we leave?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Big faith in a little body.

I was halfway home from picking up the kids from school when Harrison announced, "I forgot my homework!" I asked him if we needed to go back and he said no, he could follow up tomorrow. I asked if he had a test, we already had his 3rd grade packet for the week at home that included spelling words and his memory verse. I couldn't think of what he might have left.

His response befuddled me. He informed me that he had left the notes at school he was going to follow up with. I had to keep questioning...the notes from his meeting with the principal, Mrs. Smith. Really, I thought? I was becoming a little concerned. That is when he finally told me about making an appointment with the principal during his own time to discuss with her what he thought he and the kids from school could do to make a difference in Ethiopia.

I was shocked. I mean, we talk about making an impact and giving our best encouraging others to come beside, but this was my son taking initiative on his own. Even his older sister Kaytlynn was surprised. I could tell she was a little irritated being the competitive girl that she is, that she hadn't thought of that idea first!

Harrison put forth his plan of having small banks in every classroom for the kids to contribute their change. He and Mrs. Smith eventually worked out a plan that included he and Kaytlynn speaking to both the middle school and elementary school chapel.

I was so very proud of both of them yesterday. In addition to a power point with pictures and a video from Korah, here is the script Harrison shared with the kids.

When my mom came back from Ethiopia and told me all about it, I knew I had to help make a difference. I know I can’t do it all by myself. This is why I am asking you! See, my family is going to Ethiopia just after Christmas. I think our school could earn some money for the kids in Ethiopia. This is what I would like to buy or have donated for the kids: small children’s bibles, baby milk, diapers, soccer balls, small toys, pencils, workbooks to practice English and bubble gum. I love bubble gum! Of course money is good because we can buy goats and food for them to eat while we are there. We also can take sick people to the doctor who normally couldn't’t go because they don’t have money to go.
Please look for the jars coming to your classroom soon!

The students really took the message to heart. Today after school he brought home the jar from his classroom almost completely full. He told us about his teacher whose heart was moved by his idea and brought her "date night" savings from her own savings jar.

Another classroom has agreed to sponsor a child.

My heart is full with anticipation of how God is going to use Kaytlynn and Harrison. I am so humbled and feel so inadequate as their parent to walk through this journey with them. I am thankful God is so much bigger than me. Final talies of gifts will be given at Christmas.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Compelling, final part 3

Monday slowly comes. I go back to the clinic. They check for a heart beat first this time. Yes, it is still strong. This time I am again seeing a completely different doctor. For some reason the entire Kaiser system had crashed over the weekend and they had no record of me from the last week nor did they have records of any of my blood work to compare to. I was still having symptoms but there was indeed a heart beat. The word was the same, take it easy. We will check you in a week. There isn't anything we can do for you accept watch and wait. If this pregnancy fails, it will be a miscarriage. We wont treat you for pre-term labor and delivery until 20 weeks as that is when you will have a viable baby.

I continue to try to wrap my mind around the lack of acknowledgment of the child growing inside me. I am so aware of this precious little boy who I can't help but be in love with.

This pattern of managing my symptoms and waiting for the 20 week mark continues. People from church are amazing to come by, to bring dinners and to visit with me. Being the active person I am, it was painful to be home in my house and still for days. Kaytlynn was 2.5 years old and not sure what to do with me. We read a lot of books. I read my bible and trusted that God had a plan. I really had peace that it was going to be okay, one way or the other.

At the 20 week mark I finally was sent to St. V's to the Perinatology dept. I saw a new doctor as I was officially "with child". The high quality of their ultra sound equipment was finally able to show us what was happening inside. The doctor again did not understand how I had lasted this long. How I remained pregnant. I was bleeding internally above my uterus. The blood was running down through the layers of my uterus and then ultimately dumping in the bottom of my uterus which cause a hematoma. My placenta was also separating, but that was minor in comparison. Sorry about the graphics, not sure how to explain what was going on. The specialist told me there was no way the baby was going to make it with my body actively hemorrhaging. Complete bed rest and come back in a week. This continued week after week. She was always so surprised to see me. Harrison continued to grow. It was as if God was holding him in his hand because my body certainly was not.

I can remember at Christmas time I begged to be able to leave the house. Can I go in a wheelchair? I just wanted Shane to push me through the mall on Saturday and then be able to go to church. How I missed being at church.

He called the doctors office and I received permission, Shane borrowed a wheel chair from my Grandma Almeda and to my delight, our trip was scheduled. I had no idea what anxiety would come for me being wheeled down the busy mall during the very crowded Christmas season. Shane went faster than I was comfortable with, which felt to me like we were nearly bumping into everything and everyone. I got the strangest stairs from people to see this young woman in the chair. No one would smile or talk to me. I might as well have been terribly contagious! They crowed and cut in front of me instead of trying to make room. I really couldn't take it. After just a short while, I asked to go home. I was frustrated with myself and frustrated with the lack of kindness by the people at the mall. I was tired from holding on for dear life!

Going to church was an entirely different experience. I was so thankful to see my friends. Really my family. To my surprise there was a guest speaker that week. Pastor Glen Cole. No one would have known the significance for me. See, Pastor Cole was the pastor in my home church in Olympia, Washington 30 years earlier. He introduced my parents and my grandparents to Jesus. He mentored them and ultimately I felt my upbringing in the faith was credited to him! What are the odds? Not likely. I hadn't seen him for 15 to 20 plus years. After the service, Shane wheeled me to the front for him to pray for me. When I reminded him who I was as a child and who my family was, he remembered immediately. He was so kind and encouraging. He reminded me of my spiritual heritage and how much God loved me. He prayed for my little boy and told me it was going to be okay. Wow. That was a moment I will never forget.

Well that was my last trip out of the house. From whomever I had received permission from, my specialist doctor said that I should not have been allowed out and that I was to remain house bound and more completely on bed rest. When I reflected on the chances of that particular Sunday and that particular pastor and him praying for me, I was so very thankful to God for his encouragement to me...his personal encouragement to me, that only I would have known about the significance of this man God sent.

As the weeks went by slowly, my symptoms did not change. The weekly ultrasounds occurred as did my visits with the perinatologist. The only change was their opinion of the baby making it if he was born that week. Each week they told me of the unique birth defects or brain damage he would likely suffer if he was born during that next week.

Finally, at 38 weeks, I went to my regular appointment and my body was completely healed. The doctor was amazed and confused. The active bleed had stopped, the uterus walls appeared to be connected back together and the hematoma was gone. All at once, from the week before.

It was like God was saying, I can protect him despite the storm and I can take the storm away. I Am God and my will be done.

To further make his point, after being treated for pre-term labor and delivery all of these weeks and months, they induced me at 40 weeks. Harrison did turn his head to the side and they ended up delivering him via C-section. He was a perfectly, beautiful healthy baby.

So as for that sweet box of blue baby clothes? Well, they are now all washed up and ready to go to ET. I will remember the grace and the protection that God had for my child when I had no control of my circumstances. When the clothes are given for Ethiopian babies in orphanages or in the dump, I will be comforted by the fact that I still have no control but absolutely God does even through the storm.

Church, Ethiopian Style

So after taking in a fabulous message with Shane at our home church, I venture downtown to find this Ethiopian church. Alex meets me at the bus stop and we ride together to a big beautiful Lutheran one room church building. Questioning eyes meet me as I hop out out my car with Alex. They are asking how he knows me. They look at Alex worried as to what has he gotten himself into. After all, Alex is the newbie. He has only been in Portland about 7 months. Many in the congregation have been attending the church as long as 10 years. One man who received the same lottery visa as Alex looked to me eagerly as his friend began to suggest I hire him.

I love my own home church as the people, friendship and the encouraging words each week are what bring me back. We meet in the church sponsored high school gym. The creativity and leveraging of the space for maximum dual use is extremely resourceful and makes me very happy. However today, walking in the sanctuary with extremely high ceilings, beautiful stained glass windows and traditional bench pews just feel so comforting. The hymnals remind me of being a little girl in the traditional church where I grew up. Alex told me that the Lutheran church uses the building in the morning and that is why they come in at noon afterwards. The men and women are moving about almost dance like, setting up the electric piano, microphones and the PowerPoint with song words in Ethiopian (so many languages and I can't pronounce the one from today much less spell it here, at least not yet). Yes, this means that none of the service was in English except when the man from the front pointed at me and Alex told me to stand and say my name and where I am from. The rest was me taking in the sing songy voices, different speakers and beautiful music. The electric piano quickly took me back. It was like hearing a full orchestra...the trumpets, flute or sax or something as well as the supporting instruments. One man at the double keyboard was making it all happen. It is hard to describe the traditional ET music sound...I will have to think about it some more and listen again but it is definitely its own flair.
Mesmerized, 2 hours later, we walked down into the basement and I met the 20 some people in the congregation. They were very gracious and kind to me. The black coffee was not exactly like being in Ethiopia but it was delightful. They served homemade bread as well. Not sweet, not salty just fresh handmade bread like my mom used to make and still does for a special occasion.

On my way to take Alex home, he pointed me to the freeway entrance. Being as turned around and directionally challenged as I get, I asked him, are you sure? He said, yes, I am sure, this is the way to your house. Smile. "Okay, we will go to Kaytlynn's soccer game."

We caught up with Shane and Harrison and enjoyed Kate's tournament soccer game. Only one more weekend of games thankfully. I am ready for a break. Alex rode back with Shane and the kids and I fixed dinner in our ET mansion. Alex didn't blink an eye and loved our beautiful home. Humbled again. My apprehension of everything not being quite nice enough melted in his delight of the pictures on the walls and the conversation with our family. He seemed to savor every moment. While gathered around our small bar and me cooking on our electric stove, he said, "You know, this is my first time in an American home. My first time to have dinner with an American family". Later I found out that Alex told Shane, the people at church were asking how he met me because many of them had been in the US up to 10 years and did not have an American friend. I am going to have to ask about this some more.

A few blessed or lucky Ethiopians come to the promised land, the land of the free and when they get here, perhaps we offer them a busy schedule, work or don't eat agenda and no relationship or friendship. Just a thought...not sure yet.

Anyway, I have not yet met his niece(more like a sister) and her husband with two children with whom Alex lives. I am offering restraint! Apparently they have been hear 6 and 10 years respectively.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Restraint...not much left, our first Alex date

My mind is struggling to find words...I know that doesn't happen very often but it is true. The words almost can not describe.... The encounter, the weekend, the time together, the instant connection, the joy, the experience, well maybe I can start with "the dinner" on Saturday night.

Saturday night is date night. One of the very best blessings in my life, though there are many to count, has been given to me as a gift by Shane's mom. Almost very Saturday with out fail, after the soccer games are over and the activities of the day are settling down, Sheri snatches my two children for a date with grandma and papa D. They veg out watching TV, eating popcorn and having quality time. Kaytlynn and Harrison always look forward to spending time, chasing around Roxy the dog and sleeping over. Every Sunday morning we all catch up at church together. The result of their quality time with grandma has been some fantastic date time for Shane and me. I look forward to those Saturday nights as much as the kids do. It isn't always a big fancy plan but we usually have a special meal together. Just the quiet time to talk in full sentences or sometimes in Shane's case, to sit without talking, is great to have once a week.

Well, this Saturday night was no different in that it was date night and we could do anything we pleased. Friday at work days end, Shane had asked Alex if we would like to join us for our date night. I'm sure he didn't really know what that meant, but he said yes. When I asked for all of the details of the conversation because I just HAD TO KNOW, Shane said, he asked Alex, Alex said yes, Shane said he would call tomorrow and Alex said okay...."it was a man conversation", Shane said. So Saturday night we ventured to NE Portland to find Alex. The men had agreed to meet at the Queen of Sheba on MLK. It is an Ethiopian restaurant that we had driven by before when I was looking for signs of ET culture in Portland. We had left early as the rain was pouring down and I didn't want our guest to stand outside long waiting for us. At 6:15 we arrived and saw Alex hurrying down the street to the designated location. We flipped the car around to my excited directions because Shane was just not fast enough for my liking. We pulled up in front of the restaurant and Alex peaked around the corner and I could see his eyes peering from his hood. It was beginning to get dark but as I jumped out of the car he recognized me right away and ran to the car. He gave me a big ET half hug. It is kind of like a handshake but then shoulders and cheeks touch all at the same time. I think there is a light grab to the elbow too. It is a delightful hug, like family you haven't seen in a long time. I encouraged him to hop in the front seat next to Shane and I slid across the back into the middle so I could hear everything going on. I didn't want him to get lost in the back with me turned half way around to talk at him.

Clearly, Alex is very excited. He begins to tell us that he can not believe what is happening. He has been praying that he would be able to get a job so that he could be a blessing to his family. His Ethiopian friends in Portland as well as the family is Addis can not believe he has found employment with his minimal Ethiopian education and language abilities. Praying? Really? Oh yes. He begins to tell us that he believes God helped him find us. Maybe God brought him to the United States and from Maryland his original settling place, because he was to be friends with us. God is the way, the truth and the light. Such faith he has. I am humbled. He begins to tell us, "I know that there were many people who want this job, maybe I am not the best person but God gave me this job so I can be with you. You are my new family". Wow.

Meanwhile, we arrive at Bridgeport and after a leisurely walk around, we come to PF Chang's where we have reservations. We all can not get out the words fast enough as we find our excitement building over the divine connection God seems to be making with all of us. Alex shares that he wants to go to school, become a nurse and go back to ET to help his people. A clinic has been on my list for the first big project I want to raise funds for. Just interesting. May be no connection. Only a short while later, Emily Cornish joins us. Emily is my sweet friend who already has been to Korah and shares my crazy passion for ET. She is finishing nursing school this year. Her conversation and questions come out as excitedly as Alex's and more details are pursued. We all decide we will be in ET together next summer. Why not plan on it. Stories and experiences are shared. Shane engages but is in so much shock, he can not hardly believe it.

I ask Alex two questions: what does he want to do for ET? and what can we do for him to help him in this country?
He share's with us his heart for the people. There is so much that is needed. He wants to help his family and the people and working hard in this new job will help him do that. As far as what we can do for him? This new immigrant with really nothing...what does he ask for?
"I just want to be your family. I am available every Saturday and Sunday. If you need me I am your family and I help you. You can teach me everything".

To love and be loved. I look at Shane...my sweet conservative husband thinking he is going to play by all of the politically correct rules at work. He melts. When I look at him, he just shakes his head as if to say, "I know what I told you earlier, but I can not tell him no."

After dinner, Emily parts to go home and we stop by grandma's house to say Hi to our kids and for the family to meet Alex. On our way back to MLK, Alex invites us to church sometime as it is at noon and expresses his interest to try our American church as well. So, on Sunday, I can't help but take him up on the offer...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Compelling, part 2

So at just 10 weeks of pregnancy, I knew something was wrong. I had been taking a walk pushing Kaytlynn in the stroller and began to feel the trickle. I made it home, cleaned myself up and called the doctor. Into the clinic and then after the ultrasound, the doctor said everything looked fine. She told me that it was unusual to see this early but she was very confident we were having a boy! The excitement was muted by...take it easy and be careful. You cant bleed like this any length of time or your baby probably wont make it.

Just a couple of days later on a Friday, something changed in me. I began to gush. It frightened me terribly and I rushed myself to the clinic again. For some reason my doctor wasn't there and another Dr. was filling in. She could clearly see that something wasn't right. After examining me, she showed me a sample and said that what she had was a portion of fetal tissue and I was passing my fetus. She was going to have me do blood work so she could track the hormone levels and I would have to come back on Monday for a D&C as well as more blood work to compare to. She left for a moment and then came back. I was trying to be strong but I could feel the warmth in my body rising. Tears welled up in my eyes and I couldn't speak. She looked at me with irritation and confusion. She questioned me " are you upset?" I said, "Well yes, we are talking about my baby". At that moment she began to try to explain away my fetus. She told me that because I wasn't 12 weeks along, it wasn't really a baby anyway and I could always try again. I was dumbfounded. I know many people are of that opinion but to tell that to me in my moment of loss was painful.

I left that afternoon with great sadness. Upon returning home, I continued to gush. I was managing my symptoms and still in so much shock. I believe it was later that night when I called a much wiser friend of mine who had medical experience. She suggested that I could die from my symptoms and I really needed to go back to the hospital so they could monitor me. She suggested I go directly to the ER.

The ER was very concerned for me and was glad that I had made the decision to come in. They were not comfortable with my levels and wanted to monitor me. They realized immediately that my symptoms were extreme. The doctor was much more gentle and empathized with my sadness. At some point during the examination, he checked my belly with the stethoscope. He heard a heartbeat! Remember, the last physician had shown me a piece of fetal tissue. The doctor was rather shocked and then told me that even if there was a chance the baby was still alive, by Monday he would pass as he wouldn't be able to handle the stress of the condition of my body bleeding.

At least one of the pastors from our church Horizon Community Church in Tualatin, came by to pray with me and to be with me. I went home that night with instructions of complete bed rest and to check in with my doctor on Monday. TBC

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Compelling me to keep 'em

While so many of our belongings have been purged there are traces of our treasures that still are under review and scrutiny. Tonight was a box that I have not wanted to open. I'm not exactly sure but for some reason I have equated the contents with my memories, as if the memories would go when I let the box go. In the spirit of our cleanse and being willing to live in a smaller space, it was time to make the review. Shane pulled the box from our storage garage and I plopped down in the middle of the family room. I called to my children to come take a look. I opened the lid to find some of the sweetest tiny little blue outfits. Kaytlynn and Harrison began to ooh and ah. Harrison asked, "whose are those?"

He was shocked to hear me say that they were his when he was a baby! I guess it is strange to have these perfectly tiny little clothes in my closet, moved from house to house for all of this time. We agreed to go through the outfits one my one and pick a few of our favorites to save but we certainly didn't need the 30 plus outfits for under 12 months of age. He delighted me when he suggested we share some with the babies in Ethiopia. Oh yes, Harrison! I thought I could wash them up and see how they looked. Some of the clothing with white was starting to discolor. A little soak in Biz should do the trick.

I began to reminisce about Harrison's birth and walking through pregnancy with him. Harrison's life is absolutely a miracle. A twinge of guilt overcomes me as I try to remember the specifics. I am sure I can't possibly get them all right but I should be able to capture the spirit of the story. Maybe holding onto his clothes was my way of waiting to part with the story. It is time, time to remember and write as much as I can possibly remember.

Most everything was delightfully exciting and wonderful until about week 10. It was then that we knew something was wrong. To be continued...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

42 days to go...the world is shrinking

One of the fantastic experiences of being exposed to Ethiopia and gaining a renewed passion for helping, is all of the connections that keep popping in my path. It doesn't feel like a coincidence. It began with the whole house garage/Craig's List sale. It seemed like almost everyone who came to purchase something, people who knew nothing of my passions, had some connection with Africa. Many with Ethiopia.

Today is no exception. Shane has been a wonderful support to me and is very excited about our family trip coming up. I mean come on, he was willing to move our family into an "Ethiopian Mansion" when he didn't have to. No elaborate trip to Cancun or Maui, but a trip across the world to Ethiopia and the dump with the proceeds from selling most all of our personal belongings. Whatever didn't fit in the apartment, had to go! BUT, he certainly doesn't live and breathe it like I do. I had him drive me around in NE Portland one night just to see if we could see any signs of Ethiopian culture. We did find a wonderful market where I can by injera and spices.

So back to my experience of today. I met a man named Alex who is Shane's most recent new hire. Guess where Alex is from? Addis Abab Ethiopia. Can you believe it? He won the US lottery, which I didn't know even existed, for a 10 year long term Visa. I just got to meet him today for the first time so I have not grilled him yet on all of the questions I want to ask him! Shane tells me I have to be professional and offer restraint! Okay...so I am trying to be professional as possible but I am so excited I can't hardly stand it. Alex has been here about 8 months and told me he would go with us on our next trip to be our translator! Next trip meaning after the December trip, after all he was just hired and can't ask for time off yet. What are the odds???? Certainly God is smiling down on us. He must have a great sense of humor! This story is TBC (to be continued!).

Montessori part 2, my heart is full

What an absolute blast today! If I could skip out of work for an hour everyday to share it with such delightful children, I totally would! We shared together so much. They are like little packages waiting to be opened. You never know the potential of each one of them and the gift they will be to the world. What a privilege to spend time with them and get the opportunity to make an impression on them that could possibly stick with them forever! When I was getting ready to leave, one of the little girls graciously asked for a hug and then told me..."this hug will last with me forever!" Talk about an esteem builder.


So what did I share?

Tabatha had help me put together a beautiful power point presentation with pictures from my July trip. I discussed with them where Ethiopia is, how I got there and why I went in July in the first place. (Mental note, good idea for a future blog!) I showed them pictures of the transportation, the houses, traditional food, and shopping.


Next we talked about why Ethiopia is so difficult to live and thrive in. We talked about HIV and how many people are so sick. We talked about the dirty water, I even had some in a bottle and asked if anyone wanted a drink! I had 3 of the 24 students stand and tell them they got to go to school and the rest of them had to be workers so their mom could feed the family tonight. The statistic probably isn't accurate but it gives them an idea of how few kids get to go to school. It certainly isn't a given. The lack of education influences the lack of doctors which then ties back into all of the sickness. The poverty and lack of work is also a result of sickness and lack of education. They really paid close attention.


I used the cookie example with them as well. I brought a package of Oreos and had 3 children stand up. I told them they were the USA and the rest of the students were the majority world or Africa. I told them that the three USA kids got the package to share except for 1 cookie which the rest of the students could share. They were all shocked! I seemed nice enough, that wasnt very fair! I explained to them that the USA kids could share but they didn't have to. After all there was plenty to go around, as long as the students shared. It was interesting seeing the response from the kids representing Africa and the kids representing Ethiopia. I asked the USA kids what would happen if they kept the cookies, two said they would get sick. One said he could save them for later. I suggested that sometimes that is what we do as Americans. Eventually the USA kids agreed to share with everyone later at the snack station, where they also got to sample ingera.

After the PP the kids broke into four groups and then they rotated stations. One group colored pictures of Ethiopia and monkeys. Another went to the snack table to sample the ingera and the cookies, a third station had many items I brought back from ET and they tried on the neckaces, looked at paintings and hand woven items. They took turns and I even tied a baby doll on their back with a scarf and commissioned them to walk 5 miles to get dirty water. The final station was my favorite. Remember, I told them that most of them would not have the priviledge of going to school so they would have to go to work today in the class. I set up a shoe shine station and the kids took turns practicing cleaning each others shoes with a little brush and a milk jug.

My favorite Shoe Shine Boy who should have been in School

I was so blessed by their teacher, Kathy Fisher. She was great and capturing their attention and reiterating the points I was trying to make. I could tell she was so excited for us to be there and worked hard to make us feel welcome.

Finally we finished by reading the first chapter of "Take Your Best Shot". It is written from a 9 year old boys perspective. He watched a World Vision video about a little girl Maggie and decided he was going to make a difference. The first chapter is about his "Maggie Moment". I commissioned the children to let this be there Maggie Moment and to really decide to make a difference in the world.

I am hoping to stay in touch with the class...to check back in with them once more before my trip and then again after. I am so thankful that a friend of mine, Claudia, connected me with Cathy and helped to make this happen. More to come...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Montesorri School Tomorrow! Ethiopia Fact of the Day

10:15AM tomorrow morning I will be speaking to my first group of students regarding Ethiopia. Twenty-four 2nd graders have no idea what they are in for! The best of marketing and Jr. High youth leader meets passionate business girl with props and walla...a fabulous presentation! I will give you the "rest of the story" tomorow as to the reality of this fabulous presentation! Tabatha used my pictures from the July trip and produced a fabulous power point presentation. I have lots of words to share-I love words. After the power point we have planned stations of ethiopian food/Ingera, shoe shining work experience, hand made items to touch and coloring pictures. Then a little story time from the book Lisa shared with my kids called "Take your Best Shot". I am so thankful for the opportunity to share with the students and their parents. Something exciting is in the air!
My favorite fact of the day to share about Ethiopia vs. the USA is:
Ethiopia has less than one third the population of the United States but Ehtiopia represents at least 7 languages. No single language represents more than one third of what the Ethiopian population speaks. Quite a bit of diversity by dialect and language. None of these languages are common to us such as Spanish or French, etc.
Source:The World Fact Book 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

A teaspoon VS. the Horder's House

I was trying to describe to a friend how overwhelming it feels when you think about the need, my desire to help and the gravity of the circumstances in Ethiopia. Imagine the worst Hoarders TV show edition you have seen. Then, picture yourself standing in front of the house with a teaspoon as your only tool, the crew has graciously allowed you to help out, the only catch is you get only 10 minutes! Holy cow, what could you do in a Horders house in 10 minutes? As noted in previous post, I would probably just start gagging...Seriously, it is overwhelming. Would be so much easier to bow out, to pass by the house, to watch someone else try, to give my condolences etc. Despite all of that, I feel compelled to give the best 10 minutes I can possibly give. I have chosen to go in with eyes wide open and to Embrace Compassion for the city. I am choosing to allow my heart to be vulnerable. The people are by far to valuable. What they have to offer me in relationship, in love, in learning from their strength and their heart it too much to pass up. I will take my 10 minutes and LOVE and be LOVED. Kind of takes the pressure off. I mean, really all I can do is make myself available and then see what God does with it. Then I get to thinking...what if I had 100 friend, 500 friends who all gave 10 minutes. If we had a plan, went as a team, worked in groups, used our unique tools no matter how big or how small...then we might even make a dent on that Horders house...or the poverty and sickness in Ethiopia. Consider it.

so bummed...Love in a Ziplock bag

Just found out the package that I thought was being sent overnight on Friday wont be arriving until Tuesday. Tuesday is too late. Sweet Ashli will already be on her flight and in the air. I know I should have gotten it out earlier. It is just that there are so many details going on every day and I thought I was in the clear. I dropped the ball. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. I'm beginning to love our Ethiopian boys as if they are our own children. Yes it is different, but at the same time it isn't. They are our sponsored boys from the Project 61 ministry. We think of them as adopted, just staying at the boarding school in their own country. I just wanted them to have cards from Kaytlynn and Harrison. Some gum, pencils and new school pictures. Nothing that will save a life. Just LOVE sent in a Ziploc bag. I just want them to know we love them, that we are praying for them, that they are on our mind and...I want them to know that we will be with them for Christmas! It is a bit like sending a message in a bottle. Just bummed...my heart is sad.

Flea Obliteration Drama

So in case anyone was curious on the outcome...the flea killer showed up today. It took about 2 hours to prep, get everything that we could off the ground, out from under the beds and then vacuum thoroughly. We now will vacuum everyday for 10 days and continue to clean out the vacuum. We also have some other natural remedies that have been generously shared by friends and some special spray shared by Jessica. So I am having faith despite the comment on the card that was left that it will probably fail because we didn't take everything out of our closets. Seriously? Everything out of the closets too? Where do you put everything from under the beds and out of the closets in a tiny little apartment? By faith...no more fleas please!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Toughen up, dont be afraid to Gag! 52 days to go

I keep thinking preparation...How do I prepare myself for the unpreparable?

I am so excited to see and love on the people. The women and the children grab my heart like nothing I can explain. The food is kind of weird sometimes and good others, I could take it or leave it but it doesn't stress me. I generally am not afraid of getting sick. I am not worried about crime or something happening to me. The travel is long but it isn't worse than a marathon.

My only fear, at least for the time being is, loosing it. Full on smell or site induced chucking your lunch without any control. Not motion sick, not sick sick but the waive of nausea that comes from sights and sounds that are just over the top.

I feel very drawn to Korah, the trash dump outside of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. We will be spending days there if at all possible. I can barely take my own trash out or wipe out the can. I can not even help with my own kids getting sick or barely left over food. Not that I'm not tough or too princess like, I just begin to uncontrollably loose myself.

Is there a way to toughen up? I'm trying. I keep sniffing nasty stuff to see if I can mentally control my heaving. Why would I have such an intense desire to be with people in such a terrible place but not even be able to control my own body? I heart Korah.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Life is a Science Experiment.

My 11 year old, Kaytlynn, has been working feverishly on a fabulous experiment. It seemed natural because she likes to bake to do something in the kitchen. She chose to make from scratch two yellow cakes with all of the ingredients controlled as well as the baking conditions. She made only one slight change to the recipe. 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda was omitted in the second cake. As a good scientist would, she observed each step.

  1. the ingredients looked the same

  2. the batter looked, smelled, tasted the same

  3. not surprisingly the difference was in the baking

There was a big bubble on one side, the cake was difficult to get out of the pan, it crumbled on one side and was like a rubber solid chunk instead of a fluffy cake.

    I began to compare the experiment to my own life. Maybe on the surface I might look the same to my peeps. I smile, I'm kind, I say nice things. No one may suspect until I'm baked...under pressure. What if that little ingredient that is missing is love... the perfect love of Jesus. The secret is to put the love in ahead of time. One you are under pressure, there isn't time to throw in the missing ingredient.

    unwanted guests-the unperks

    Today is the day of admission. The black jumping specks on my arms, my bed and my books are not pepper. The visitors have moved in to stay and today is the day their eviction notice is to be served. Maybe they are guests from the previous tenants. Maybe friends of the 4 cats upstairs. I'm not sure but being the unfriendly person that I am, today is the day of their doom. I have agreed for the nasty infusion to be imparted in our home. 10 days of vacuum clean up. Really, 10 days of bodies and eggs? The thought makes me shutter. The green natural girl that I aspire to be is wreathing in agony over the thought. Did we really sign up to live here on purpose?

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Non Material Poverty

    Non Material Poverty is an interesting concept for our Western Culture. Isn’t poverty all about having material wealth? While reading “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert, I have really been considering My Own Poverty.
    Poverty of meaningful moments. It isn’t on purpose, or for lack of trying, but it often seems as if the days go by so quickly: racing out the door to school, then to the office, back to school, snack time, soccer practices words, what about the reading tonight? Are the teeth brushed, why didn’t anyone tell me we were out of laundry soap, a quick trip to the store for poster board? You get the point. Margin In Life. Blank space seems to be in short supply.
    How do we give our children the best, stay connected with those we love, work hard and give our best but keep from being drawn up by life? Creating margin and blank space in our day leads to wealth of spirit.