Monday, May 31, 2010

Travel Plans

In 36 hours we leave for Ethiopia. A year and a half of working, waiting, praying, and now it comes down to this. We are finally actually leaving. We are really, really going to Africa to go get our baby boy. I wish I had something profound to share right now. But the reality is that I have been so BUSY for the last two weeks since finding out our departure date that I have hardly had time to think. I have been a flurry of activity, making to do lists a mile long and working from 6 am till midnight everyday to check everything off. Last week I was unable to sleep every night. My mind just wouldn't stop. One night at almost 1 am I lay half-asleep and realized that I didn't have the right kind of cleaner to disinfect the changing table after Little Brother's diaper changes. I had to get up and add it to my shopping list.

All day today I have been packing. Literally ALL day. You should see my packing spreadsheet. I have spent hours reading the advice of other adoptive families and compiling this massive Excel workbook. (I AM an accountant, you know. :) But now that the actual packing is behind me and everything on my spreadsheet is crossed off (well, almost), I feel such peace. I will definitely sleep well tonight.

Just for fun, here is a small sampling of my to do list from the past week:
  • Withdraw cash to be exchanged into Ethiopian Birr when we arrive. (This required multiple trips to various bank branches because all cash has to be crisp and dated 2005 or later.)
  • Research how to call home from Ethiopia and buy calling cards.
  • Pick up donations from many wonderful, generous people who are sending gifts for orphanages in Ethiopia.
  • Call our bank and credit card so that they don't shut down our accounts while we are in Ethiopia.
  • Fill multiple prescriptions for us and Little Brother to take with us.
  • Shop at Wal-mart, Walgreens, The Party Store, The Dollar Store, Costco, Target, Michael's, etc., etc.
  • Make copies of all of our important documents both to take with us and to leave with our family at home.
  • Get a couple of shots that I still needed before leaving (and meanwhile finding out that my doctor has moved to a different practice that doesn't take my insurance and I didn't even know it!)
  • Make lists of what to buy and who to buy souvenirs for.
  • Pick up luggage, converters, and other travel items that we are borrowing from friends.
  • Wrap up all of my accounting work since I will be out of commission for a while.
I cannot wait to get on that airplane. I welcome the fact that it will take 40 hours from the time that we leave Nashville until we reach Addis Ababa. I will need at least that long to decompress. And I LOVE to travel. I love being in airports and watching people. I love the thrill of going new places. I love the fact that when you are flying there really isn't anything that you can do but talk, read, and write. My favorite things to do. Daniel and I have a lot of catching up to do. It's been a crazy year and a half to say the least. I am thrilled to be spending this time alone with him.

I can't believe that I am really traveling to the land of Africa, a place that has affected the lives of many in profound ways. I know a little bit of what I should expect, but truly I know that I don't have a clue. But I know that I will be affected. I pray that I will never be the same, that this will be a turning point in our lives.

When we began the adoption process, it was such a huge "leap of faith" for us. At the time the adoption itself was a daunting destination. But I now believe strongly that the adoption was just the beginning, a first stepping stone down a new path that our lives will be taking. I do not know what that will look like. I just feel the Lord telling me that he has much to teach us just ahead.

So here we go! We would welcome anyone who would like to greet us at the airport when arrive back in Nashville. Here are the details:

We will arrive on Saturday June 12th at 2:28 PM. We will be on Delta flight 6023. I strongly recommend checking that the flight is on time before coming to the airport. It is quite common for flights to be delayed when adoptive families arrive back home.

See you in a couple of weeks!

NOTE: In case there are creepy people out there who are reading this, THERE WILL BE SOMEONE STAYING AT OUR HOUSE WHILE WE ARE GONE. Besides, we don't have anything valuable left at our house. We sold it all to pay for the adoption. :)


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kirk's Giveaway of the Week

Check out the Kirk family's blog to find out how you can win this dress (custom made in size 6 months - 5T).

Amy is doing a different cool giveaway from her blog every week to help spread the word about www.goseeklove.com. Check it out! Oh yeah, and buy a Go. Seek. Love. T-shirt too. 100% of the proceeds go toward the Kirk family's adoption!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

VIDEO!!!!

Look what another adoptive friend just sent to me!!!


And...



Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We're Going to Ethiopia!

We got the long-awaited, joyful phone call today. We are cleared to travel to Ethiopa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We actually have the option to leave this weekend, but we are unable to for several personal reasons. But we have plane tickets on hold for Wednesday June 2nd. That's just two weeks from tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!! Can you tell that I am excited? :)

Oh, there is so much to do. And it is so fun!

Hang on, baby boy. We're coming to get you!

Donations for Ethiopia

For a couple of weeks there I was consumed with nothing else besides the flood: helping my aunt, helping neighbors, cleaning up our own yard, baking cookies for those waiting in line at the FEMA headquarters here in town (that was my favorite thing to do!).

Now life is getting a little more back to "normal" (whatever that is), and I am once again scurrying around trying to get ready for our trip to Ethiopia. We are still hoping that we will travel in early to mid-June. That is soon! I've made list upon list, and I've done a lot of shopping and planning.

We would like to fill ALL the extra space in our luggage with donations to give to the transition home (the orphanage run by our adoption agency where Benjamin has been since December), to other orphanages, and to street children. We would welcome donations of any of the following things, and we will make sure that they get into the right hands while we are there.

Here is a list of what we would like to take:
  • Food to hand out to street kids (granola bars, pre-packaged packs of trail mix, protein bars, etc.)
  • Over-the-counter medicines for kids:
  • - Cough medicine
  • - Vitamins - liquid and chewable
  • - Tylenol - children's and infants'
  • - Benadryl
  • Latex gloves
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Toddler shoes and socks
  • Diapers
For those of you who are local and would like to send some things with us, just email me at family @ duboisadoption . com and we can work out a time for me to pick your donation up. Thank you!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meet the Kirks

I am excited to introduce the next Go. Seek. Love. family!


Stephen (dad), Amy (mom), Joshua, Emma, Sophie, Abby, Caleb, and Chloe Kirk


For the next six weeks, 100% of the proceeds of all Go. Seek. Love. T-shirt sales will go toward the Kirk family's adoption of a baby boy from Ethiopia!

Yes that's right, I said six weeks. We had initially planned to partner with families for three months at a time. However, when we got almost twenty applications from awesome, godly families, we were faced with a very difficult situation. We read blog after blog and fell in love with family after family. With all my heart I wanted to help every single one of them! With our current infrastructure, though, it's just not possible. Instead we prayerfully decided to partner with one family per month through the end of the year. The Kirks are the first, and from now until the end of June all T-shirt profits will go to them. Yea!

So head on over to www.goseeklove.com and buy a T-shirt.

Also, Help us spread the word by adding a Go. Seek. Love. badge to your blog. Just copy and paste the following text:


<a href="http://www.goseeklove.com"><img src="http://www.goseeklove.com/images/goseeklovebadge.jpg"/></a>


Let me also share their bio with you that is now on our website:

Thanks for stopping by! We are the Kirk family (Stephen, Amy, and our 6 precious kids), waiting to bring our newest addition home from Ethiopia. As a family, we are striving each day to grow STRONGER in our devotion to God, CLOSER in our commitment to one another, and FURTHER in our passion for the world. By God’s unfathomable grace, we have been adopted in Christ—redeemed, rescued, and restored as His children, and now God is calling us to do the same for one precious little life a world away. What a privilege!

Several months ago, it became clear that God was asking us to “Go! Seek! Love,” a child through adoption. As we have responded in obedience, we have been encouraged by the example God himself set for us. He comes to us in our sin, seeks us out even as we push Him away, and loves us unconditionally and without merit. The path of obedience is not easy, but it is always good. May you experience the profound love of the very first adoptive Father in new ways today!

About the Kirk Family
Nearly 15 years ago, a boy married a girl, and since then, things have never been the same. Visit the Kirk house today and you can expect to be greeted by: 16 eyes, 160 fingers and toes, and 8 hearts beating in anticipation over the arrival of a 9th from Ethiopia. While the Kirk family loves the beach and the Colorado mountains, at any given moment you might find them hovering over their studies in the family dining room with homeschooling mom, Amy, at the teacher’s desk. They are also joyfully involved in their church, pastored by Stephen (dad). As you can imagine, life with 6 (soon to be 7) kids is never dull and always full of many blessings!

JOIN us…
As we seek to bring justice to the fatherless.




Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Pictures of B

Once a month we get an update on how Benjamin is doing, complete with a couple new photos. It is one of my favorite days of the month! Yesterday was Update Day. Look at how our little guy has grown!


He's got two teeth on the bottom now!



And curly hair! He's got curly hair! A lot of Ethiopian kids have beautiful loose curls, and I just love them. I was so hoping that our little guy would have hair like that. And he does!

His chin and neck look exactly like Madeline's. That makes me happy. He looks so solid and healthy. He is up to 21 pounds now at 8 months! He's in the 73rd percentile. Woo hoo! He has gone up every month. He's eating several different foods now, and he can sit without support. They say that he laughs a lot too. :)

Oh I absolutely cannot wait to have this precious little guy in our arms. It won't be long now!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flood Photos

As I write this there are four guys in SWAT Team uniforms in our yard. They have pulled their truck down to the river bank. It's not every day that you see that in Pegram, TN! They are searching for a man who drowned during the flood a couple of miles upstream. This is the fourth time that I have seen various search parties on our property. Please pray that they find him soon so that his family can be at peace and the searching can end.

Here are a few photos of what things looked like around here last week.


This was at about 11 am on Sunday when it really began to sink in that the water was rising fast and getting close. Daniel stood out in the rain praying for our family and property.


I took this right before my dear little vegetable gardens flooded and washed away. Daniel did rescue the frames for me to use again next year. I kept my composure and just focused on what I needed to do for most of the rest of the day. But I did lose it for a moment as I watched these friends be destroyed.

video

This is a short video of a neighbor's barn floating through our yard. We watched two others make their way past our house during the day.


This is our next-door neighbor's playhouse washing away. Her daddy made it for her as a Christmas present a year-and-a-half ago. She also lost her playset, and her house was flooded with three feet of water.

video

This video shows what the water looked like right before we left our house. This was roughly 8 hours before the water reached its highest point.


This was a house on our street at 9 am - over 12 hours before the river crested. The water later reached almost to the roof.


This little house was completely underwater later. The outside walls washed out - bricks, drywall, and all.


This is what our house looked like when we left it. Everything on top of the furniture. Daniel's workbench from his workshop was on top of the kitchen table.


B's room



M's room


Our bedroom (I'm not sure what happened when I uploaded this photo.)



This was the road leading into our neighborhood as it appeared Monday morning when we came back. The water had been receding for 12 hours already. At the lowest point there was about 8-10 feet of water over the road.




This is how our backyard looked when we got back. About half of our fence was washed away, and many other sections were leaning. It's amazing what the force of the water can do! Daniel worked so hard on this fence all through the summer last year. We were very blessed, however, to be able to recover most of the missing sections from the field beside our house.


This is how it looks now that the water has gone down. The water reached the top of the arbor at its highest point. You can just barely see the two spots where my raised beds used to be. I lost three crape myrtles from the yard too.


The leaning back portion of the fence.


Lots of debris everywhere.



More debris. We were so thankful that this play set that Daniel is building for Madeline did not wash away. It just needs to be straightened up a bit. We did lose most of her sand that was in her sand box, though. Daniel's workshop is in the background of this picture. It had about 2-3 inches of water in it. It kinda needed to be rebuilt anyway, though. Thankfully, all of his tools are OK.


The house on the left used to have a two car garage beside it. It completely washed away.



Cars on our street.


More photos from our yard after the water went down. The tree line along the side of our yard acted as a barrier for much of the debris that floated away from the homes on our street. We now have a deck, a trampoline, a Volkswagen Golf, lots of tools, and LOTS of JUNK in our yard and in our trees.


Trees down by the river.



This piece of plywood was splintered when it collided with our blue bird house.


The landscape by the river has changed completely. There used to be lots of trees and shade and privacy in this area. We had a porch swing that washed away too. But on the bright side, we have gained a beach! There is about a foot of sand covering this area now. Madeline and I have had great fun searching for shells.



My poor little willow tree looked like this after the flood.


But Daniel helped me to replant it, and now it looks like this! I think it is going to be OK. :)


Trees on the other side of the river have been stripped of their branches and leaves where the water rushed by.


This is what the front of my next-door neighbor's house looks like now because of all the water damage inside. Everything had to be removed from the house. They could hardly save any of their belongings.


This is the view from the back of our two houses. Look how little of a difference there is in elevation.


My Aunt Sarah lives in Bellevue, and she had two feet of water in her house.



The inside of her house after the floors were removed. The drywall came out next. We had so many super volunteers who showed up to help. Some of them we didn't even know!



Aunt Sarah's street. House after house lost everything. Many on this street were TOTALLY covered with water.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Ring Around Our House

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me
with songs of deliverance.

- Psalm 32:6-7


The last week has been filled wtih heartbreak, praises, hard work, and every emotion I can think of. I am just now coming up for air, and all that has happened is sinking in. Here is our story.

Last weekend in the Nashville area, it rained 13 inches during a 48 hour period. So much rain in so short of a time caused unbelievable flooding in not only the big rivers, but also the smaller streams and even tiny creeks as well. Homes and businesses all over middle Tennessee flooded, the vast majority having no flood insurance. They are calling it the 1000 year flood.

We have the Harpeth River in the back of our property. Our backyard slopes down quite a bit, putting our home just above the level of the 100 year flood plain. When we bought our house 7 years ago there was a dispute with our mortgage company about whether or not we were required to have flood insurance. We are just outside the range, and so we “won” and did not have to purchase the expensive insurance.

Last Saturday evening we watched the river rise, thinking it was fun and exciting. It was unthinkable that the water would ever reach our home, and unlikely that it would affect any of our neighbors. However the one road that leads in and out of our neighborhood is very close to the river. Before going to bed we were wondering if we might be “flooded” in and unable to go to church the next morning. Oh, we had no idea.

When my alarm went off at 6:30, the first thing I did was look out the window at our back yard. “Oh my goodness, that’s a lot of water!” I said, waking up Daniel. I jumped in the car to survey the neighborhood and found that already the road leading out was under four or five feet of water. You could barely see the top of a car that had been submerged while trying to cross the flooded road. The houses at the other end of our street were right on the brink of flooding. And the torrential rain wasn’t supposed to stop any time soon.

Still, I had no idea just how bad this was going to be. None of us did. I settled in on the couch to do my Bible study and have a few quiet moments before everyone else got up. I watched the water rise and just casually started to think through what we would need to do if it began to seem like the water might actually reach our house. But there’s no way that would REALLY happen, right?

Daniel got up and marked the water level. In an hour’s time we found that the water had risen a vertical foot. Wow. It rose at least another foot in the next hour. We started doing the math – the water only had to rise another 8-10 feet to be at our back door, and the downpour wasn’t supposed to stop for at least that long. We got in the car to survey the neighborhood again and found that houses were beginning to experience significant flooding. At that point, it sank in – this was really happening. Unless God chose to change the direction that things were going by his mighty hand, our home was going to flood.

We hurried home and kicked it into high gear. The first thing that would flood would be Daniel’s workshop in the backyard. He started cleaning everything off the floor and moving as many of his power tools into our two vehicles as he could. I got all the toys that were scattered in our backyard up by the house, and then started inside. In a matter of about 3 hours, I packed up our entire house and put every single thing that we own on top of furniture. I pulled out the lower drawers and put them on top of the dressers. I emptied cabinets and put everything on the counters. I moved clothes out of closets and piled them on top of the mountain of stuff on our bed. We put the legs of our kitchen table in pots and put taped plastic bags around the legs of all other furniture possible. We unplugged everything in the house, and moved all our electronics to higher ground. It’s amazing what you can get done in a short time when you have to.

Meanwhile we watched the water rise. It was inside the back of our fence by 9 am. It enveloped my precious vegetable gardens by 11. By 2 it was at the level of the floor of Daniel’s workshop. The unthinkable was happening. Within about 3 hours it would be in our house.

At first we thought we would just ride out the storm in the neighborhood. Madeline and I would go and stay with friends on a higher street, and Daniel would keep watch over the house. Then we got word that an emergency team had been evacuating people by boat and by ATV through a muddy field to a local church. The water was getting too high to continue doing it though, and it was now or never. Having done all we could at the house, we decided to leave. There was no electricity, phone service, or cell phone service anyway. We wanted to be on higher ground. We packed our backpacks with a change of clothing, toothbrushes, sleeping bags, a little food and our wallets and headed out. We told Madeline we were going on a big adventure.

Just down the road, a hero whose name I don’t even know picked us up on an ATV. Daniel held Madeline and hopped on one side of the rack on the back, and I jumped onto the other side. We held on for dear life as he took us through someone’s yard, through new creeks that had formed that day flowing to the river, and through a muddy field to the road that leads out. I don’t mean to over-dramatize, but it really was every bit as dramatic as something you see in a movie.

We were so grateful to make it to the church. You know, you just never picture yourself as someone who will seek refuge at a public shelter during a natural disaster. The unthinkable really was happening.

Madeline had a blast throughout it all. There were lots of people, lots of dogs, lots of chaos. What could be more fun? As Daniel clung to her on the ATV in the pouring rain, she pointed out flowers that we passed in the field and sang songs. Her childlike innocence and trust was so refreshing.

At about 8 pm, the emergency team chose to move everyone at that shelter to a middle school 30 minutes away because there was power there and cots available for everyone to sleep on. The roads were inaccessible, and so people were moved by ATV down the railroad tracks beside the church, two at a time, and then they crossed the highway in a boat to make it to a bus that took everyone to the school. What an ordeal for all of these tired, stressed people. Even elderly and handicapped people had to do this. We felt extremely grateful to be invited to stay with some friends who were at the church running the shelter. They lived closeby and their road was the ONLY one that could be reached from where we were. Instead of sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor, we ended up on their couch bed with a pack and play for Madeline to sleep in.

It was a long night, but there was peace. We were safe, and we were together. I was so thankful for my precious family sleeping together all in a row. We had everything we needed. The Lord was with us. We felt that in a tangible way.

At about 9:00 the next morning, I got a text message from a friend who was in our neighborhood with a photo of the front of our house. It showed that there was water very close, but NOT IN our home. It was our first indication of the truth that had now become unthinkable – OUR HOUSE DID NOT FLOOD. Soon I got another text message from another friend telling me that they thought all was OK.

We headed out at about 10 am to see if we could somehow make it back into the neighborhood. We hiked through the field and waded in mud up to our ankles, but we made it back. It was true – no floodwaters had reached our home. All three of us got on our knees in our backyard and praised God. Our home was the only one on our side of the street that did not flood.

Why were we spared? I wanted to know. It didn’t make any sense. Our house was just a little bit higher than our neighbors, but not that much. Even our next door neighbor had three feet of water in his house. As I closely inspected our property, I found that water had surrounded our home on three sides. It had come within 2-4 feet in most places of reaching our walls. Immediately I could picture angels standing around the perimeter of our home, holding back the water. I thought of the story of Elisha and his servant: The army of an enemy surrounded the town that they were in. The servant was afraid, and Elisha prayed that his eyes would be opened to see what was TRULY happening. There was an army of angels standing between them and the enemy, protecting them. There was nothing to fear. I could almost see that same army around our house.

I talked to a dear friend a few days later, and shared our story. She was completely undone upon hearing what happened. Here is what she sent to me in an email later that day:



“You see, the night of the storms, in the midst of prayer for those I loved in
the storm--God laid you, Daniel, and Madeline on my heart and just pressed and
pressed you all there--CONSTANTLY.

He VERY specifically gave me Psalm 32:6-7 for your family and as I prayed for you. The prayer over and over was for God to place a ring of His angels around your property, and that He would keep your specific property dry. I also prayed that this line would be apparent around your home. Also, that your home would be a place of respite and island of care for your neighbors. I could see in my spirit them coming to your home for help and that you would be safe enough that you could give out to them. As I
heard about the line around your property and the chili and stew you gave out to
your neighbors, the peace that you all had in Him, and the peace you are able to
share with others--I am completely undone.

He has greatly been in our midst.”

There is so much more to tell, but this blog post has gotten a little long. I will share more stories later.

God is good. He is with us, and he has been merciful. I don’t know why he chose to spare us from the destruction of the flood and did not do the same for others who prayed to him. But I know that he is with every one of his believers and followers, and he works in our lives in different ways. His mercy looks different for every family. “He works ALL things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
You can see the debris line through the middle of our driveway.

The debris line was about two feet from the corner of our house here.



The water got to the edge of the bricks along our landscaping.


The flooding reached the top of this gate, closest to the house.

Monday, May 3, 2010

We're safe and dry

We are safe. We were able to get our first look at our house today. No water damage. Given the scope of the destruction in our small neighborhood, this is nothing but miraculous. God is merciful and we are utterly humbled. Please pray for all of the families in middle Tennessee. So many have lost everything. More later.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Flood Update

Here is what the water in our backyard looks like now.



You can just barely see the top of the weeping willow tree featured in the photo that I posted last night peeking out above the top of the water. The water level would still have to rise about 10 more feet to be at our back door. However, the houses at the other end of our street are already flooding. We won't be getting out of our neighborhood anytime soon either. There is only one way out, and it is under at least 4 feet of water.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's Wet Here

It has rained almost all day and all night here in middle Tennessee. The flooding has been crazy, even shutting down the interstate in several places. We have the Harpeth River in our backyard. Thankfully the yard slopes quite a bit, and our house is much higher in elevation than the river. But the river is way higher than we have ever seen it in the seven years that we have lived here. Here are a few photos from late this afternoon.




Wading in our backyard







This brings a bit more perspective. You can see the actual river past the trees. We just went out and checked the water level at 11 pm, and the weeping willow in the picture now has water up the first two feet of the trunk.


This is right after falling into the water while wading (which I KNEW would happen).
It's supposed to continue to rain tonight and tomorrow. Please pray for all those whose homes may flood. Our home is nowhere near being in danger of that, but there are others who live on our street who may be in that situation.