If I went through the journal I kept and tried to relay the last week of our lives, I would probably crash this page. More importantly, I am now the father of four children at once. So I will have to share stories from the trip piecemeal. In short, Ethiopia is the most remarkable place I have ever visited. The people are kind, beautiful and generous beyond measure. They are grace and goodness personified. Love abounds and I am a better person for each one I met. We will go back. We travelled with fantastic, fantastic new friends. God blessed us with travelling companions that I know are friends for life. What a journey.
My girls, my precious new daughters... Zenash is thoughtful, peaceful, a little shy, sweet, beautiful, nurturing, wonderful with babies and young children, remarkable at games, sharp, and has a wry little sense of humor. For now she is a bit of a daddy's girl which is A-OK with Dad. However, she adores Lynn and I fear my top spot will be short-lived. (It is already being threatened by Savannah) And while we are at it let me just say that hearing the word "Dad" and "Mom" with Zenash's sweet soft voice is like a song in my heart. She reminds me very much of my beautiful Savannah. They are almost identical in size and (as I alluded to above) have so far hit it off beautifully. As I type Zenash is braiding Savannah's hair. Savannah has welcomed Zenash into her heart and home without hesitation or limitation. I am so very proud of my big girls.
A taste of stories to come...While we were in country, Zenash took great joy in suddenly finding herself able to share with those less fortunate than her. She gave her granola bars to hungry children. She shared bubble gum and lollipops with joy in her heart. If I gave her a pack of gum, she gave some to house staff, guests and other families. Her reaction to suddenly owning things and having a little bit? Share with those that didn't have what she had. This morning, she held a coffee ceremony to celebrate our homecoming. This included roasting the beans we brought back, and preparing breakfast. It is a BIG deal in Ethiopia. When I tried to help with electric ranges and a food processor (that by now probably has a burned out motor) I was directed "Dad sit". As I type she is braiding Savannah's hair. She is simply lovely.
Miss Tarikua... where to possibly begin with her. She is adorable, hysterically funny, strong-willed, a bit mischievous (but in an endearing way), sharp, curious, appreciative of any act of kindness, and cuddly. The best part is that she is very aware of all of these things and has figured out how to use these characteristics to her advantage. She is an absolute love sponge. She is quite a bit like Carson and my kind-hearted Carson has been so gentle and good with her. She loves Mom and Dad but is especially attached to Lynn. She has quickly taken to being an American and it is apparent that she very much understood what was happening. She was coming to have a mom, dad and new siblings. She spent yesterday afternoon in a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader outfit. I mentioned above that Zenash took joy in giving... I can't miss the opportunity to share that in these instances Tarikua usually was swatting at her as if to say, "Stop giving our stuff away!"
A taste of Tarikua stories to come. As most are aware she is deaf. However, she gave us an early surprise on Tuesday morning. Our new friend Tye had brought a guitar to donat to his new daughter's orphanage. Before doing so, he played at our guest house. For a year, Lynn and I had both slightly mourned that we might never share our love of music with Tarkua. But I came downstairs to the sound of music. I found Tarikua with her ear pressed to Tye's guitar. His left hand fingered chord positions while Tarikua smiled and strummed and Lynn and I wept. She was making music. As I type, I cry yet again. God is so good!
Our return. I spent most of the week telling people that Ethiopia has the coolest people on earth. Upon our return I must amend to say that Ethiopians are tied with our friends and family. Once clearing customs and immigration we were greeted by Carson, Savannah, Lynn's mom, Lynn's sister Laura, Cousins Austin and Dakota, Pastor Natalie, Amanda Grace, Lynn's life-long friends Cathy and Patti, and Patti and Gabe's daughter Ava. There were signs, balloon, gifts from Grandma and much cheering. Tears, and hugs and a new family is born. (I hope most of you are friends on Facebook with Pastor Natalie and got it all live from her Blackberry) Watching my children cry and hug each other for the first time was the greatest moment of my life. More beauty... We had our first meal at...McDonalds. A day of many firsts indeed as there isn't a single McD's in Ethiopia. As we drove into Waynesboro, Lynn commented that she wished that the house was cleaner and wondered where everything would go. Remember the whit dresser? I told Lynn I would go first thing s we would have a place to put things. We didn't have time.
As we pulled up to our house, our jaws dropped. Our Soul Food Sunday school class had planted flowers and done tons of yard work. We went inside and it was immediately apparent that the entire house had been cleaned top to bottom. The house was draped with banners of the Ethiopian colors (red, yellow and green). We had a surprise gift basket and two very generous gift certificates from Lynn's work (lets be real the "basket" was two enormous tubs of food and toys). Our friends down the block had gotten keys from my mom and dad and been hard at work. There were beautiful flowers from other friends down the block. Bags of clothes had appeared in our bedroom. Sign language videos from Arlington friends in the mail. Our day was full of friends and neighbors coming by to met the family and my work has been beyond generous in allowing me to schedule medical appointments and bask is the glory of this moment. God is good... And last but not least, remember the dresser? It had appeared in Tarikua's room and it was perfect. Lynn and I cried as we felt like we were on one of those reality programs where your house is re-done. We cried and hugged. I am sure Zenash was confused and surely thinks Americans cry and awful lot. All of this is not to mention, all of the friends who cared for Savannah and Carson and the dogs while we were away and those that so generously donated money and goods for us to take with us. They were received in the spirit of Ethiopia with love, appreciation, and the intent to share. If I have somehow failed to mention your contribution, please lease, ease know that it is because I am a bit overwhelmed and not because your love has failed to impress. Trust me, I have felt every ounce of love that has been offered!
As I conclude, Carson has taught Zenash how to play the Wii and Tarikua has discovered glitter glue. So many firsts. I cannot begin to tell you how I feel at this moment. Rich and blessed beyond my widest dreams? That just doesn't approach it... I am most certainly not worthy of the love I have experienced in the last week. How very fitting that we arrived in Addis on their Easter Sunday. I think I have celebrated Easter every day since. I will try to share stories in the coming weeks. This life is certainly a grand adventure. I wish all of you could hear the laughter I hear right now and feel the love in this house. It is awesome. Transitional times certainly are ahead but for now I bask in the love of this family of four children. I bask in the love of friends and family. I bask in the love of new friends in America and Ethiopia. I bask in the love of God who put this on Lynn's and my heart. I hoe this will teach me to trust Him more often. His ways are not my ways but I have to tell you, His ways have proven to yield much better results this week. To all, an open invitation to come by and see us (especially while the house stays this clean!) and know that we love you all! God Bless you all!