Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Game-Changer

An adventure from the last few weeks...

I was having a rough day.  I was caring for a friend's infant son and I just could not get him to be happy.  So much crying!  So much crying, in fact, that I joined in too.  It was really hard.

My sore ears and perceived failure put me on a short-fuse cycle so that Feven's disobeying put me to just about crazy.  I knew I needed a change of pace, so I decided to go shopping.  Retail therapy?  Maybe.  But it was with a purpose.  I wanted to pick up a few gifts for some friends we were going to be visiting soon.

I headed downtown to my favorite Ethiopian grocery store to start.  And I'm pleased to say, it was all uphill from there.  As I was walking into the store, an older gentleman held the door for me.  Holding a child in one hand and a purse in another made his gesture a very welcomed one!

Once inside, I breathed heavily of the scent of Ethiopian spices and food.  I spied the large bags of injera and listened to the Amharic spoken around me.  I chatted with the owner to see if he had found a sambusa chef yet (no) and we laughed and talked about how much Feven was growing.

My heart was lifted just by this brief visit, but God wasn't through making me smile yet.  I proceeded a few stores down to the "Addis Market."  Traditional Ethiopian dresses hung in the large shop windows; long white material with bands of color for embellishment.  I had to go in.  I tugged on the door, but it was locked!  An old woman sitting inside by a sewing machine smiled at me.  But she didn't get up. 

Confused, I asked a man passing by if he knew the shop's hours.  He looked Ethiopian and somehow I figured he'd know.  Don't ask me why.  He said that he wasn't sure, but I should inquire at the barber shop two doors down.

Normal Amber would be too shy or embarrassed to do this, but for whatever reason I had lost my inhibitions and found myself plopping down in a barber shop seat and chatting with the two women working there.  They told me that I could access the dress shop by going through the deli that was between us and the dress shop.  "Follow me," one said, and I did.

Coatless in the cold Minnesota winter, my new barbershop friend led me next door, through the deli, and into the dress shop where there was also a music store.  Again, somehow this seemed to be a very normal thing.  I asked a little about the dress shop and learned the owner would be back tomorrow.  Meanwhile, a small crowd was gathering around us.  Feven tends to attract attention from a lot of people because she's so darn cute.  However, she attracts the most attention when she's around Ethiopian people because they have all sorts of questions to ask!  Soon we found ourselves conversing with the old woman by the sewing machine, the deli shop man, the barbershop friend, the music stand worker and a random guy off the street. 

It sounds so crazy, but in the moment, it felt completely normal.  I can't emphasize this enough!  I think it reminded me of being in Ethiopia and the relational culture there.

I inquired about some music from the Oromo region of Ethiopia, and the music stand woman played me a CD.  I liked it a lot and asked how much the CD cost.  She tilted her head to the side as if to think on it a moment and then said, "Five dollars."  In my head I was thinking, "Whoa!  That's an amazing deal if it's just 5 dollars!  I totally have to get this for my friends!" 

I put my money on the counter and she didn't present the CD right away.  Instead she said, "It will be a moment.  I have to burn it." 


So the CD I bought for my friends turned out to be a burned copy of the CD I listened to in the store!  I knew my friends wouldn't mind because of the story that I now had to go along with it!  Something about waiting for her to burn the CD and it being a burned copy reminded me of what it was like shopping in the markets while in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

As I waited for the CD, the Ethiopians around me continued conversing with me about Feven.  What town is she from?  What region?  When did you get her?  Does she speak Oromo?  Can I hold her?  They tried to speak both Oromo and Amharic to her to see if she remembered.  Unfortunately, she didn't seem to remember those languages, or maybe she was just very shy around these people, because she didn't respond to them with recognition. 

While I waited, my barbershop friend brought me a cup of coffee from the sewing machine area in a small, white teacup with the Ethiopian flag printed on it.  They must have just had a coffee ceremony together because I noticed a few used cups also sitting on the plate where my coffee was poured.  I received it with two hands, bowed my head slightly and said, "amesege'nallo."  When I looked up she had a surprised smile on her face.  I'm glad I could use one of my few Amharic words in an appropriate situation! 

She then offered Feven some Dabo bread.  It meant so much to me to be welcomed into this little group and be given coffee and Dabo bread.  The kindness of these strangers made me forget the stress of the day and remember the gift I have in Feven and my family's special connection to Ethiopia. 

We walked out shortly thereafter with our new CD in hand, a piece of dabo bread to snack on, and the taste of great coffee on our tongues (yes, even Feven had some too!).  What a great turn-around to a rough day!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

When Kindness Comes Back Around

I love Aldi for their prices, but when I go there I always have to remember two things: I need to bring a quarter to use a cart, and I need to bring reusable bags because the grocery bags there aren't free.

A few months ago I had just finished checking out and was bagging my groceries when I noticed a woman beside me trying desperately to fit all of her groceries into one of the discarded produce boxes.  

I looked at the five reusable bags in my hand, knowing that I would not fill them all, and made a decision to offer her one of my bags.  After reassuring her I wouldn't need it and that it would make me happy to share, she took it. 

You can check the security cameras, but I'm pretty sure I floated out the door.  It felt so good to help someone else.  It felt so good to share what I had.

Fast forward to last week.  I was shopping in the evening at Aldi and had found more things than I came for.  (Who can resist their low, low prices?)  As I waited for my turn at the cash register, a woman and her little girl were just leaving the store and happened to roll their cart past my line.  She glanced my way, saw my cart, noticed I had no grocery bags, and handed me an extra one she had. 

I was baffled!  It was deja vu but this time I was on the other side.  I was grateful for her kindness and touched by her generosity.

I guess it's worth checking the security cameras again, because I just might have floated out from the store a second time.  What a privilege to watch kindness come back around.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Feven's Black Skin

My daughter has black skin and I have white skin.  I thought a lot about skin color before, during, and after our adoption.  I knew that some people with white skin would be bothered by the fact that I have a daughter with black skin, and some people with black skin would be bothered that my black-skinned daughter has a white-skinned mama.  I also knew that most people wouldn't really care.

I knew that at some point I would talk to my daughter about where babies come from and that she didn't grow in my tummy.  I knew that someday she would notice that our skin colors are different.  I knew that someday her friends who don't have black skin would notice that their skin colors are different from hers.

Well, I can say that I have not yet been confronted  by any upset white-skinned or black-skinned people because my daughter's skin and mine don't match.  I have not had to talk about babies, and she doesn't yet notice that our skin colors are different. 

BUT, today a friend of hers noticed his skin was different than hers and he commented.  And you know what?  It was totally awesome.  Totally, completely, heart-melting awesome.

This friend of hers is 3 years older and treats her very well.  He enjoys helping her talk ("Feven, say...stroller!  Now say....Hello!").  He draws pictures for her and looks out for her in general.  Today while he and his mom and sisters were hanging out with Feven and I, he rubbed her arm and he said in a little voice, "I really love dark skin."

That was it.  Our first comment about skin color.  "I really love dark skin."  His mom and I looked at each other, not sure what to say if anything at all.  She was stunned because it was the first time she ever heard him notice skin color (even though he has relatives with all different shades), and I was stunned because of how it came totally out of the blue and was just so incredibly sweet. 

"I really love dark skin."  No judgement.  No baggage.  No stereotypes or insinuations.  Just an observation and an opinion.

"I really love dark skin."  Well, sweet boy, I do too.  And I especially love the little person wearing the dark skin. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Don't You Hate It When God Listens?

Doesn't it irk you sometimes when you've learned that God has been listening to your prayers?

The last week or so I've been praying that God would make me more like Him.  I want him to take out the things in me (oh, there are so many) that are not like him and put into me more things that are like him.  I don't even know where to begin to share with you the things in me that aren't like him and the long list I have of qualities he has that I want.

Well, I MEANT what I prayed, but somehow I also didn't mean it.  I wanted those things but I wanted God to wave a magic wand and shazam!  I would be more like him. 

It turns out he listened and is answering my prayer, but it involves some work on my part.  Oh, I am so lazy.  I don't want to do work.  I don't want to see all the grit and grime in my soul.  I don't want it to be exposed.  I just want it out.

The last 24 hours have given me plenty to work on.  Last night Zac and I were part of a marriage session that focused on communication and what men and women are seeking at their very core.  I learned so much and felt very challenged to pour more effort into our marriage. 

Talking about it with Zac last night, I marveled at how serious athletes spend time training, researching, and seeking advice of experts to become better athletes, but somehow we as a society believe our marriage relationships will thrive if we do nothing.  That's just plain silly.  Marriage takes work, and a healthy marriage takes even more work.  I see some tangible things I can do to be a better wife - and more importantly a better friend - to my husband.

If that weren't enough to work on, today Feven has been acting up.  She threw tantrums at breakfast because I asked her to take a sip of milk.  Good golly!  You'd think I was the evilest mom in the world.  She continued to act out and we ended up with the proverbial spilled milk and tears.  She just wasn't herself. 

I recognized that something was bothering her, but it's much more appealing to comfort a hurting person who has sadness and tears than a hurting person who is acting out in anger with hitting, screeching, and tantrums.  This revelation gave me much to chew on as well.  How do I care for the hurting people in my life and community who are acting out in anger from their hurts verses the people who are acting out in sadness because of their hurts.  This has so many implications and I have only begun to unravel the ball.  I'm pretty sure Jesus embraced all the hurting people, no matter how they were reacting to their hurts. 

God is making me more like himself and more like his son.  He has heard my prayers and is answering them.  It isn't easy, but I know he's in control and he's doing good things in my life.  It seems that the toughest hikes always end with the most breathtaking views.  Here I go...around the next bend...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Feven's First Christmas

We had a great first Christmas as a family.  It was a delight to have a young child around to experience again the magic of Christmas.

Zac and I chose a few special gifts for Feven this year.  She received a ball to replace one we had lost.  She enjoys kicking her ball around the house or stuffing it under the couch.  Thankfully, the one we got her does not fit under the couch.  We also gave her a picture domino set.  She isn't able to use it yet, but hopefully in the upcoming months we can teach her how to play.  My favorite gift that we gave her, though, was a special doll I got for her.

Feven loves babies and tenderly cares for all of her dolls.  I saw a doll like this 4 years ago and through a series of remarkable events, I was able to buy one for Feven this year.  This doll is hand-made by women in Africa, Uganda to be specific (I think!).  They were made to raise money for Show Mercy International, a non-profit providing short and long-term mission trips to care for abused and abandoned children in Uganda. 

One of the reasons I love this doll and knew Feven would too is that it has a baby on its back!  Feven loves carrying her baby dolls on her back.  We tie them on with a dish towel or small blanket.  I thought she would flip seeing a doll with a baby on ITS back!  Zac thinks it's great because now Feven can have a baby on her back with a baby on its back.  Did that just blow your mind?

Here is a video of Feven opening her gift.  Note how she does get more excited about seeing the box than the doll.  :)  I guess we're just in that stage of life!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why I Like Thrift Stores

I like thrift stores.  It warms my heart to think of people sharing things that they no longer need.  It makes me feel good that these discarded items are not going into landfills.  Additionally, many thrift stores raise money for programs that help the community.  However, today I want to share with you my favorite thing about thrift stores....the amazing prices.

Check out what I picked up today!  As you scroll, add up how much you think I spent.  The total is at the bottom.  :)  See how close your guess is!

This fantastic black shirt for Feven.  So versatile!  I wish it was in my size...

This adorable purple skirt for her for summertime.

Shirt and pants pajamas...because someone in our house has figured out how to unzip her footie pajamas and does so nightly...

This gorgeous velvet dress that will likely work for next fall and winter.

A pencil case for her markers.  We've been doing more coloring lately and now she'll be able to access her materials easily and all by herself (and hopefully my cupboards will have a better shot at staying organized).

Baby Einstein book with plastic pages to ensure a longer life with this teething gal!

A "Treasure Box" for Feven's special cards and notes that she's received.  I've been looking all over for one of these and was so excited to find this one that will fit all her special things!

On Christmas Eve I learned from my mom how to keep Feven quiet(er) in church...stickers!  Here are few partially-used books.  I don't mind because the stickers won't stay in there for long!

A basically-brand-new box of sidewalk chalk.  If you look closely, you'll see the pointed tips and plastic still covering most of the chalks. 

And the final picture of all I found.  How much did you think it cost?  With in-store sales and a coupon I had, I paid $5.18 total for all of the items below.  That averages to about $0.50 per item.  I estimated what it all would have cost new and the total was roughly $77.00.  That is an approximate savings of 94%.  My pocketbook says thank you.