When Andy and I got married, we were short of funds, took a brief honeymoon and then rushed to move to Andy’s new job in Muscatine, Iowa. We agreed then, that on our 10 year anniversary, we’d go to Hawaii. Well, we celebrated that 10 year anniversary in March dreaming not of the Pacific beaches of Hawaii but of another place, whose beaches faced the Atlantic and whose hotels wouldn’t reach a 1-Star category anywhere. We were dreaming of Freetown, Sierra Leone where a little boy and a little girl waited for us. We were by then their legal adoptive parents and we were waiting a clearance that could come at any time to go pick them up. Saving every last available penny to cover adoption fees and travel to West Africa, we settled for a night in Des Moines, IA.
Not Hawaii, but also nice.
Looking back on 2008, we certainly don’t consider lost opportunities or any real sacrifices. We sense only the most profound blessing upon us. Indeed, in taking our family from six to eight, we experienced more adventure than we bargained for and saw our God more clearly than ever before.
Zeke and Kora arrived safely home with us on June 6–a day forever etched in my memories. I remember weeping as we landed in Iowa, knowing our other kids waited just yards away and we were home and together. Our trip to West Africa turned into a battle and adventure way beyond our control and comfort.
Kora (3), a welcomed dose of estrogen around here, gets the right of first mention this year. She is a kind of calm, an eye after the whirling storm of toddler boys. I occasionally remark, “Oh, I get it now.” Little girls, they’re different. A strong, thoughtful, and profoundly beautiful girl, she’s finally relinquishing her role as “mother” to her twin brother. As her trust in us has deepened, she is now free to be sister—and child.
Zeke (3) still melts in my arms, conforming his body to the shape of my upper body and shoulder—just as he did the first time we met. Sticking pretty close to me at all times, he’s only recently started to get a bit feisty. Realizing how things roll around here with 4 big brothers and a strong-willed sister, he’s started to make a stand. I still give Zeke and Kora two kisses each night—one for me and one for the African mother who never got to. Kora likes them, but Zeke relishes them.
Quincy (4) has had to adjust the most this year. From the youngest, he became suddenly a big brother to toddler twins. He is, however, increasingly proud of his big brother role, remarking the other day that “I like Kora now.” The jury is still out on Zeke I guess. Medically, we’ve been able to be put on hold, but likely face further tough decisions in 2009 about the lasting effects of Bladder Exstrophy. Fortunately, in all other ways, he’s a strong and determined boyish bundle of blond curls. Like us, he sometimes forgets his shapes, though sees the outline of Africa in everything.
We sent Max (6) to Kindergarten this year with an good number of tears from Mom. Which was weird, but think I just simply enjoy his company. Now that he’s thriving in school, I didn’t think he’d still want to sit on my lap or hold my hand the way he so often did. But he does, and I love it. Max, a rather talented drum player, made his on stage debut a few weeks ago, playing with Andy’s worship team and bringing the house down. He also joined his Kindergarten teacher standing in front of his whole elementary school and explained how lots of people in the world, especially in Africa, don’t have clean water.
We sometimes can’t find Gabe (8). He’s often holed away somewhere in his room covered with baseball cards or somewhere writing songs to be played on his small collection of guitars. Gabe, though sensitive, artistic, and reserved, does turn into a fierce competitor on the basketball court while never embarrassed to dance and sing with as much passion on the kids worship team. A couple weeks before they arrived home, Gabe was the only one to sneak up to the empty beds of his new brother and sister leaving a note saying, “Dear Zeke and Kora. I’m glad you are Home. From, Your big brother Gabe.”
Dawson (9), in typical oldest brother fashion, is most proud of his new African little sister and brother. I occasionally find him searching for and reading about Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. We hope that he’ll one day be a powerful fighter against injustice. If he focuses the same intensity and energy on injustice as he does on the baseball field, the basketball court, soccer and football fields, the forces of darkness may be in trouble.
Andy’s music increasingly reflects the challenges of loving the least and of following God into the uncomfortable and dangerous arenas of suffering. Carrying an enormous amount of weight at church and at home, Andy continues to make me profoundly proud to be his wife. We often use the phrase around here–our little trips to Africa have “ruined us.” In a way that Hawaii is unlikely to do, Africa has the ability to consume and haunt one–to move you out of complacency and into adventure. Change is not easy. But it is a ride. We’ve been launching projects to get backpacks to local foster children, to get clean water to villages in Liberia, to sell bags for the poorest of Sierra Leone. It is, however, in these ruined moments that I feel most alive, most awakened. And most connected to my God. A God who took us to Africa. To Sierra Leone. To a son. And to a daughter. And to profound joy.
With a bit of trembling, we hope we have the courage to continue to follow a King and Savior who calls us to follow him and to ruin our safe and comfortable life. While at the same time, he unexpectedly pours out blessings unknown.
Happy New Year. With Much Love,
jody for all