Monday, June 13, 2016

Joining Us Together In Harmony...

Our family is once again changing.  In four very short days we will be welcoming the newest member to the Mateyoke clan.  Unless God has plans otherwise, this little guy will enter the world and join our family this Friday June 17th.  Child #6, family member #8, and grandchild #20 to two of the proudest grandparents you will ever meet.  We are all excited, thrilled, and a little nervous about all of the changes that newborns bring that we may have forgotten about in 7 short years.  This should feel like old hat to us. It doesn't.  It feels different and has felt different from the beginning of this pregnancy. The fact that I am blogging about it and needing to document this journey, is another reminder how significant this precious baby is to us.

We are almost 3 years into our adoption journey, from the time we met our children and brought them home.  It has unbelievably been 3 years that Ruth and Jimmy have been with us.  Time has flown by in a whirlwind, and it has lingered and toiled at the same time.  As I have always revealed in my writing, as well as to anyone that has seriously asked, it has been a journey full of joy as well as pain and tears.  There is nothing easy or natural about adoption, and when you take all the factors of children, personalities, birth order, culture, language barriers, pride, and selfishness, you are left with a tangled mess of a family.  BUT, we serve a very faithful and gracious God who has walked beside us and provided all of our needs every single day.  We have survived thus far and all of our children are thriving and healthy which is only a testament to our loving Father who has made that possible.

I started having the baby urge and started praying and wondering if this might be something God would have for our family.  Through so much pain and changes in our family, I questioned the timing, but just couldn't shake the feeling that we were not done with having babies.  After prayer, talking to Greg, and a longer wait period than with my other 3 babies, we found out that I was pregnant.  I felt a strong peace that God planned this child and that there was a specific reason for its life, as is the obvious case with every single pregnancy and new life. Even though I was older (advanced maternal age to be exact), getting comfortable with my older and more independent kids, and running out of room in our already crowded house. 

Fast forward to 9 months of a very healthy and normal pregnancy.  My easiest one of the four.  Here I am at the end of this period, physically ready to pop yet learning spiritual truths of God's timing of this baby.  In my study of the Bible, I have been reading a Psalm along with a passage in another part of the bible.  I have been stuck on the same Psalm for several weeks.  It has so much meaning for me each time I read it that I just can't move past it.  I have read, re-read, memorized, recited, and have tied it and connected it with other passages.  Here are just a few lines from Psalm 130:

"Out of the depths, I cry out to you.  Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy."

"If you O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared."

"My soul waits for the Lord and in his word I put my hope." 

"With the Lord is unfailing love and full redemption." 

You see, this baby, this new life inside of me, represents a new beginning for our family.  Not that we need a physical representation.  Every single one of us has this word from God, that he gives us forgiveness and full redemption.  But, God knew that my weak and frail faith longed for a concrete symbol from him.  He didn't have to give me one, but He did.  This baby, who we have chosen to name Levi (meaning "joined together in harmony"), represents a new beginning for our family that is still learning how to join together in God's grace and love.   


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September 7th of 2013 was the day that two Ethiopian children became American citizens and physically joined our family.  Words cannot express the gratitude that I have for our Heavenly Father for sustaining us these two years.  Because that is the only way we have endured, thrived, and kept going forward.  His grace,  new mercies every morning, and faithfulness are the reason we are able to celebrate this day together.  Much has happened, life has been lived, and growth has occurred on many levels. We have had good days, made wonderful memories, and have had our share of trials and growing pains.  So once again I share our Homecoming Day with you while pointing to our gracious, loving, forgiving, and faithful Lord Jesus Christ.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, because his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"I'm holding on to a hero..."

So much fighting.  Everywhere.  Tonight's news is in streets, last week it was in villages and that famous one's psyche,  week before that was in the Promised Land.  What is going on?  It hits close to home as I try and catch my breath.

I was in Sunday School when I first heard stories of God's chosen people.  They fought a lot, I remember.  But God was on their side.  Look what happened with only a little boy David.   And hasn't there always been unrest in the Middle East?  I mean,  talk about foreign.   Their customs,  their families,  their dress.  But splitting a 5-year old boy in half?  That's the age of my baby.  I paid money to study the psyche.   I have a frame to prove it, somewhere in storage.   But what about the memories of my own darkness?  I took great pride in my culturally diverse upbringing  from my middle class white point of view.  But what about that dark skinned little boy of mine sleeping down the hall?  How do we explain the fighting to him and his curious siblings?

Oh God,  what do I do with this?  Why is the fighting getting so close to me? I am not strong enough for the enemy this time.

Our dollar rental this weekend was about a soldier who survived the worst odds.  Foreign mountains. Rugged mountains.  Brutal enemies.  I cried as the credits rolled with pictures of brave heroes.  But the real hero was one born from those rugged mountains who risked the life of his son and his entire village to protect this foreigner.  That village is thriving today,  the credits said.

I have heroes.   I like heroes.   The songs that keep me going as my feet hit the pavement are ones about fighting and heroes.   My heroes used to be caped cartoon figures in skirts.  My heroes today are real live figures fighting next to me in skirts.  I listen to her tale of battle that is just like mine.  We laugh and we cry over barbecue.   I hug another one tight because I know where she is going in two weeks.  I have been there and it will change her to her core.  I pray for the one whose family is so similar to mine and I know what she is up against.  She has chosen a path of obedience that no one wants to tread. Adoption.   Birth order.  Obedience.

I hear God answering my questions when I think of my heroes.   They are all around me in the flesh, in my family, in my heart.   God has uplifted me, in the midst of my most current battles, through the women that He has placed in my life.  Yes, God is so good, he specifically answers my prayer through my personal circumstances.   But he also answered it through His word.   That's when I KNOW that He is talking to me, because His word is true.

Just like every good story has a climax, every good battle has a hero and I have the Hero of Heroes on my side.  Yes, just like the little boy David.  My battles are tough, but the battles I've seen on the news are so much tougher.   I still have my 5 year old baby.  I don't live in a country where I have to denounce my faith or fear for my life.  And I have a lot of time to teach my children of different colors about a God who loves and gives grace to everyone. I can teach them about a God that will be their Hero when the fighting gets so bad they can't stand it anymore.  I pray that everyone facing battles (much tougher than mine) will know this truth.  There will always be fighting and there will always be an evil enemy.  But there will also always be a hero.

"Who is this King of glory?  The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle."  Psalm 24:8

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Remembering what God has Done

The 1 year anniversary of officially adopting our children is this week.  Many families remember this milestone every year, celebrating "Gotcha Day" with their children.  June 28th, 2013 was the day that we stood (or sat really) before an Ethiopian judge, answered a list of redundant yet official questions, and vowed to love and care for two orphans, providing for them as our own children.  I will never forget that day as long as I live.  I will never forget the nerves in my stomach as we sat in a crowded courtroom, whispering with our new friends. My heart sank for them as they entered the judge's chambers then returned with confused looks on their faces as they learned there was a little "hiccup" with their case.  I will never forget the smile that covered the judge's otherwise stoic face as she learned that our children had Ethiopian cousins waiting for them in America.  "They will transition very well then," were her words.  At that moment I felt God's nod of affirmation, reminding me that of course, He is in this. I will never forget my very first cup of coffee as we sat in an Ethiopian cafĂ© with our dear friends, celebrating our victory, trying to take in the enormity of that day.  I will never forget arriving at the transition home that day to find my daughter dressed in a hand-me-down Easter dress, 2 sizes too small, smiling ear to ear as I told her how beautiful she looked.  She was adopted, no longer an orphan, but officially a Mateyoke.  Eyeruse Greg Mateyoke and Ermiyas Greg Mateyoke to be exact.  I will never forget the events of that day.  Just like our wedding day and the birth days of each of our other 3 children, this adoption day was a life changer.

As I remember our first trip to Ethiopia and everything we experienced there, and I remember our first days, weeks, and months home with our children, I think about what God was doing. I may or may not have realized it then, but I can see it now.  I can see how God, only God could have accomplished what he has in our family.  There are so many things in our lives and our children's lives that God has used to piece together what is now.  I cannot and will not describe them all, but I will highlight just a few that have impacted my heart the most. 

One of the first things we learned about our children and thus Ethiopia, was that Dairy was not one of their 4 food groups.  Ruth and Jimmy both cringed when we asked them to drink a small cup of milk every morning, gulping it down quickly with their eyes closed like it was a concoction on "Survivor".  We made and ordered everything WITHOUT cheese, because we knew that the mere taste of it would cause convulsions and send them into shock. I remember my frustration as Ruth scraped all the cheese and toppings off of her pizza before eating it, while our other children couldn't scarf it down fast enough.  My thoughts of being a normal pizza-eating American family were soon dashed. 

Well, fast forward about 9 months and you have this girl below that licked the plate clean of  "Chicago-style, Deep Dish, Cheese Stuffed Pizza" that we enjoyed on our vacation:


Our daughter loves to draw and when she first arrived she spent a lot of time drawing things from back home.  I think it was a good way for her to express herself (before she mastered English)  and to communicate with us.  In fact, both her and her brother Jimmy would use the colors of the Ethiopian flag in just about every drawing they depicted.  I love this picture she made for me of Greg and myself, dressed in the good ole flag of Ethiopia.  Not sure the significance of the star placement, and since I am not a Freudian psychologist, I will not attempt to interpret. 

Some say that "it takes a village" to raise a family and whether or not I agree wholeheartedly with that, I do value the support we receive from family and friends that have invested their lives into our family.  God has blessed us with a loving extended family and wonderful friends that are making an impact on our children.  Ruth and Jimmy never knew their Ethiopian grandparents, and although they had extended family, they shared minimal positive experiences with them.  Those Ethiopian cousins that the judge was so happy to hear about, make up only a small fraction of the kids in our family that share the best set of grandparents in the world.  Craziness abounds when the Hill family kids get together.  There is nothing my kids love more than spending time with any or all of them.  Here is a very small sampling of some of the wonderful people in our lives that are each one a gift from God to our family:

Ruth was thrilled to celebrate her 1st birthday in America with these guys
Meeting Aunt Jenny for the first time, on the beach.  That doesn't make her the favorite or anything :)
Didn't I say craziness abounds?  This is only half of all the kids.  Nana is right in the middle, loving every minute


Our good friend Dianne with handmade gifts for the children.

Ruth with Leah, her piano teacher and basketball coach.  All of my kids love this girl (and her family) to pieces

This blog post does not do justice to our One Year Anniversary of meeting our kids and adopting them.  Like this post, my thoughts, memories, and words are often scattered.  As I often do, I will end with the words that led me here, that gives all the credit of ANYTHING good coming from this family to God:
"I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done."  Psalm 143:5

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Birthdays, baseball, and eggs

We have been busy around here.  With Spring, comes baseball and we now have THREE boys playing at once.  Greg and I were dreading going back to the tball field since we have worked our way up to Majors with Reece.  However, we forgot how much fun it is to watch the game through the eyes of beginners.  Clay and Jimmy were both so excited to wear their new hats, shirts, and cleats.  They both claimed they hit home runs since they made their way around the bases.  And yes, Clay is already asking when he will get his trophy (just like his sister did).  We were thrilled to get to play on the same team of some friends of ours and the boys just love their "Coach Allen".

We are so proud of Reece who was recognized on the Cincinnati Reds field for winning 1st place in a skills competition for all the Reds Summer Camps.  He is loving playing his new position of catcher for his Rangers team and still growing and striking out on the pitcher's mound.

Our daughter, Ruth, has been marking days off on her calendar and was so excited to celebrate her birthday for the very first time.  As I held her basketball cake in front of her and my family sang to her, I became overwhelmed at the magnitude of that moment.  This girl is pretty amazing.  I will write a post on her soon, but for now, just know that.  My family is THE BEST and they made sure that our girl's day was special.

What else can I say but God is so good to us.  Our enemy has been working so hard to tear me down, thus tearing our family down.  Adoption is still hard.  There is so much to deal with and grow into to become attached and to be a family that genuinely loves each other.  There is nothing easy about that.  Someone told me that adoption is a refining process and I agree.  But I remember praying for God to refine me.   I remember praying for him to give me an undivided heart for him and for my children to love him with their whole hearts.  If the challenges of my life brings my heart closer to my God, then I want them.  And the moments of this month that are captured above are proof that God is still rooting for us.  My weak heart has to be reminded of that every now and again.

OH....and the Reece's WHITE CHOCOLATE eggs are from my sister who, although she can't always be here with us, somehow knows just how to make me smile.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Halfway There

We are working on memorizing a chapter in the Bible.  We are halfway there.  Our kids are halfway there to being home for a year (6 months).  We as a family are halfway there to feeling like a real family.  We are halfway there to loving each other the way that God intends.  Further than we were, but we still have far to go.  (Btw...I am so thankful that God is FULLY invested in our family.  If I didn't believe that then I would fully give up).  Here is a little piece of our family's progress...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Learning our ABCs

"The A says (a), the A says (a), every letter makes a sound, the A says (a)".  We know this tune very well in our family.  It has been sung over and over again in the past several months.  If you don't know it, I suggest you check out the "Letter Factory" video in the Leap Frog series.  It has been beneficial to our children in learning letter sounds,  and laying a foundation for phonics and early reading.  You see, I love reading, and teaching reading really excites me.  Maybe because I loved to read as a child and had dreams of being a librarian or owning a book store. Maybe it's because my grandmother was a Reading Specialist and had classroom materials in her house that my sisters and I played school with.  Quite possibly, it's because I am a third generation teacher and it is just in my blood.  Whatever the case, I love it! Needless to say, I am measuring overall success with my Amharic-speaking children in their ability to read.  They are both reading English and I couldn't be more proud.  Of course, I am not speaking of my abilities to teach them but of their sharp little minds to pick up a foreign language in ways of understanding, speaking, reading, and even spelling it. Can you fathom it?  I took 4 years of French in high school, two in college, and I can not speak a sentence of it to save my life.  These kids have been here 5 months and are already reading.  I am positive that I am not the optimal teacher.  I use the old-fashioned way of letter identification, letter sound, then putting them all together to make words.  We read aloud to each other multiple times throughout the day as well.  There is probably a better way to teach reading to ESL children (please don't send me links), but somehow we are managing without it.  What I have observed with my own 4 children (soon to be 5), is there is an innate drive in them to learn to read.  Because of my less than stellar teaching abilities, I am convinced that they will learn with or without their momma teacher.  There is another reason that I believe this...

This morning I read this Psalm (104:1-7) from the Bible:

"O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.  He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.  He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.  He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.  He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.  You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.  But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; "

I believe that God wants his children to know him.  I believe that he reveals himself through his written word.  I believe that in a world where so many doubt in our unseen God, debating that He doesn't exist because we can't PROVE him, he does just that.  He proves himself to us through his word.  My children are reading!  I am so excited because they will one day read their Creator's words that were written just for them.  They are on their way to reading, which means they are on their way to a divine meeting with the Almighty God.

I know that my Reading Specialist grandmother, Amy Ruth, would be so proud of our Ruth who is learning to read and will one day read from the pages of the Bible which was her most treasured book.