Wherever You Are

I’m celebrating because one year ago today I got to hold Ephrem for the very first  time. I had studied his little face for nine months and prayed so many wordless prayers for his health, safety, love, and care.

But this day, 365 days ago, I saw his beautiful little smile for the very first time.

This day, 365 days ago, a woman placed Ephrem in my arms in the airport parking lot in Africa, and he was physically a part of our family forever.

This day, 365 days ago, my heart got its second deepest wish: to be a mother.

Ephrem, you are one of the very best gifts I’ve ever received in this life and I cherish May 29 always because it’s the day that we met.

At a restaurant, the first full day together

“I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent my love to follow wherever you go…” – Nancy Tillman

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Unpacking the Trip

The last couple trips to Africa have left me disoriented when I returned home. Not only did I have to unpack a duffel bag full of laundry, but I had to unpack my experience , which took months. (Thankfully the literal unpacking only took a day…).

However, when I went to get Ephrem from Africa, I didn’t have a chance to unpack what I saw and experienced while we were there. I was doing the up-five-times-a-night thing. And the settle-into-our-new-life thing. And the you-can-do-the-employed-momma thing. I had these memories and experiences that had to be unattended while I gave emotionally to our family. There were no emotions or time to unpack the experience. And I felt okay with that. Becoming a parent through adoption was intense. (I’m sure becoming a parent period is intense…) I needed to focus 100% on our family.

But now we’re settling into a sense of “normal” and I’ve started the task of what all of this meant….or means.

One of the biggest reasons I went to Africa to bring Ephrem home was to capture any little piece of his story I could. So on Saturday after I arrived I found myself in a car, with Ephrem on my lap, traveling to the orphanage the originally cared for him. While I’ve visited a number of orphanages through my mission work so I knew what to expect on some level, I knew it was going to be a different far more personal experience because this place had a part in our son’s history. I would get to see where he slept, to meet the person who cared for him, see the children who lived there with him.

The visit was brief – just long enough for me to meet one of the orphanage workers, take a few photos for Ephrem’s life book, and meet some of the children who were there. But it was long enough to wreck me months later.

Because I am haunted by the children who were left behind that day.

I cannot stop thinking about them recently. I’m haunted by the idea that many or most of them won’t know a family. I’m haunted by the sad eyes of one little girl. I’m haunted by the poverty and vulnerability of the children, who likely only eat once a day if that. I only spent a moment with them, but they left their little fingerprints all over my heart. And I can’t seem to move on. More importantly, I don’t know that I want to.

But it’s left me with questions. Many questions.

When we ask God to break our hearts, and He does, what does that mean for everyday life? What does it look like here, when I can’t be in Africa? What does it mean for me now? How do I do what I can, where I am now, with what I have?

I’m unpacking the trip. And more than ever, I don’t see my world being the same again.

Josh Wilson “I Refuse” from Nathan Corrona on Vimeo.

Hunger

Like many Americans, I really thought I knew what hunger felt like. I thought I understood that sort of uncomfortable belly and grouchy feeling that you get when you’ve waited too long to eat. I’ve fasted or had to go without eating for a day…or so. I thought I knew it well enough.

That was until I heard my son’s hungry cry for the first time. I know what a hungry baby sounds like. This cry…this cry was so much more intense than that. And this is where words fail me. It was the sort of cry that makes you wish that no one ever has to be hungry ever. I can imagine that the time my son spent in an orphanage was a time when food wasn’t guaranteed or predictable. Formula is expensive in Africa. And orphanages are rarely adequately funded…if funded at all. Although I knew he had access to all the formula he needed, he did not. It was a horrible feeling, as a mother, to hear my son cry so loudly and know that his experiences taught him that food is not always available when he needed. (I did learn to make bottles in record time with a cry like that to motivate me!)

Nearly two months home and Ephrem is doing much better about food. He can now sign when he’s hungry (or at least sign back that he’s hungry :-)) and his cry has gotten to a more annoyed-that-this-is-taken-so-long cry rather than the will-I-ever-eat-again cry. He eats very regularly to comfort him that food is predictable and available.

This is why we believe and support Brighton Their World. If you’ve never heard of this small non-profit based out of Atlanta, you need to read their story here and learn what they’re doing here. They understand that nutrition starts at infancy and that no child should be hungry. Ever. They aren’t looking to solve child hunger, but they are making a big impact where God has led them. God is using them to create beauty from ashes.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post or sharing this part of our story, today.

Today, I’m writing to ask you for $7. I’m asking you for $7 to make a difference for one child.

Brighton Their World launched a campaign to provide meals for 500 kids in three orphanages in Ethiopia for the Ethiopia New Year. These kids get to eat three nutritious meals a year (New Year, Christmas and Easter). Yup, you read that right, A YEAR. Brighton Their World is looking to partner with these three orphanages to ensure that they can feed the kids for one of those meals. The cost to feed these kiddos an awesome, nutritious meal? $7 per child. Yup, you could skip a fancy Starbucks drink and have most of the money it will cost to feed just one child.

It’s not going to solve hunger. It’s not going to change the way the world works.

But it’s going to make sure these 500 kids in Ethiopia eat at least one nutritious meal in September.

We think this is something to be a part of and want to invite you to be a part, too.

http://www.brightontheirworld.org/FeedEm/

He’s here!

Sorry for the silence. It’s been a little busy around here.

You know, with a trip to Africa and all.

Oh, and this guy:

The first photo I took of our son! May 29, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, there is one less orphan out there! Ephrem Pierce Mapendo Shows is home!

 

Playing in the Guest House Day 2

 

Smiles for momma!

 

Our super star Aunt Robin!

 

Mom & E at the Congo River! (He’s actually quite happy despite the face in this photo…)

 

In the SUV and ready to brave Kinshasa traffic (with a very tired little boy)!

We flew two 8-hour flights and then a “short” 2.5 hour flight. With the layovers, it was nearly 30 total travel hours. He was a CHAMP. He slept during most of the first flight to Europe and then charmed the fellow passengers on the flight to the U.S. Then he slept for the third flight (because it was past his bedtime Africa-time).

After two 8-hour flights, we finally landed in the US! (Yes, I’m as tired as I look…But ecstatic to be in the US with our son!)

Kisses from Momma as we waited for our final flight to Florida!

We were met at the airport by Daddy and some of our close friends and family. It was a beautiful moment.

First family photo – all on one continent!

Since we’ve gotten home, it’s been all about E and attachment and bonding. We’re learning each other and he’s a sweetheart.

Morning 1 at home…after this photo, we learned that he does not, in fact, like to be spoon fed anymore thankyouverymuch.

 

E and Pippin are learning to hang out. Pippin has been around the “little humans” before and knows that they drop food often (and sometimes let him lick their fingers when mom isn’t looking). E has learned that Pippin has a fluffy tail that is fun to pull (not fun for Pippin…).

I’m sure we will have a ton more photos to post. We’ve been blowing up the Facebook feed with new photos like obnoxiously proud parents. We’re not even apologetic.

To everyone who helped us to bring our son home – friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, granting organizations, and everyone that I can’t remember – THANK YOU. For so long “Baby Shows” was this idea, this photo, this little person whom we hadn’t met living on another continent. Now he’s our son. Now he’s home. Now we’re a family together at last. Thank you for being a part of our story. Thank you for helping us become a forever family.

We are so incredibly blessed.

Thinking about You, Baby Shows

So my body is revolting has decided that 5:00 A.M. is the time it should be up all days, not just days for work. Awesome. And by awesome I mean, blerg. This girl loves her sleep, as only someone who has had insomnia would.

Oh well.

What has happened the last couple days is that I look at my phone and see the time in Africa and just start praying for Baby Shows. Prayers with words. Prayers of my heart. Prayers that only God knows. I am praying for my sweet, sweet little one around the world.

This early morning, I am praying 1 Corinthians 13 for him – that he would know and live a love like that, that we would love this way as a family:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Baby Shows, the countdown is on. We are waiting for you to be home.

 

Impact Zambia

Every now and then I get the chance to share about something exciting that’s happening with Lifesong for Orphans. Check out the post below for an AMAZING opportunity to impact Zambia. There are only a few days left to join  – Check it out!

 Join us to IMPACT lives in Zambia...   

“Hi.  My name is Richard.  I am in grade 7.  I stay with my sister, Josephine.  I have three brothers and two sisters.  My other sister attends Lifesong and is in grade 5.  Her name is Emelia.  My mother stays in a village far away.  My father died in 2006.  Thank you for supporting me and may God bless you and add more days to your life.  My favorite subject is art.”

Richard is just ONE of the 253 students that we are blessed to serve at Lifesong Zambia.  He is also one of the students that will be moving on to grade 8 this fall.

Without the construction of new classrooms, Richard may join the 95% of Zambian children that are not able to attend High School.

Will you join us in impacting the lives of children like Richard?

To add to the excitement–thanks to a generous donor, all donations will be matched up to $225,000!!

To join the Impact Zambia 100 team, email info@lifesongfororphans.org!

A Fundamental Change

Before Africa.

I think I remember my world before Africa. Some days it feels like a shadow, like a dream that I awoke from.

I believe my world was smaller. I believe it was more about me. I think even though I believed in justice, it wasn’t something that kept me up at night.

I remember that.

All that changed the moment I stood on African soil. The moment I looked into deep brown eyes and felt hands so quickly grab mine own. The moment I really saw what “fatherless” really meant. The moment that I understood poverty, not from a statistic, but putting rice in a bowl to serve to a child. The moment we decided that we meant to parent first through adoption.

Here’s the secret they don’t tell you about mission trips or adoption: It creates a fundamental change in your world. It causes you to lose sleep over the fact that there is significant injustice in our world. It causes you to wonder what you can do to be part of the change in our world. There’s a critical change that you experience that reorients your world.

All those verses about justice? They make sense.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah

Thus says the LORD,
“Preserve justice and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come
And My righteousness to be revealed”
Isaiah

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”
Jeremiah

When we had the opportunity to give our adoption testimony at church, the worship leader led the church in “The Solution” by Hillsong United. It was the first time that I heard that song. I was absolutely mesmerized by the lyrics (which was a bit of a challenge right before we had the opportunity to speak…). It reminded me that I can’t just sit idly by and not make a difference anymore. Now that I know, I am responsible.

This honestly keeps me up at night. The idea that by virtue of “luck”, I was born in the U.S. does not excuse me from not doing something about the basic inequality that exists in this world that we share with 7 billion other people. As one of my heroes once wrote,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – MLK, Jr. Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963

There’s no good reason that 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. (Global Poverty Project)

There’s no good reason that since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, almost 60 million people have been infected with
HIV and 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes. There’s no good reason for there to be 14 million orphans due to HIV/AIDS. (With anti-retroviral medications, HIV/AIDS is considered a chronic, but manageable disease. These deaths are now inexcusable.) (UNAIDS)

There’s no good reason why 3.5 million people should die due to water related disease. (Water.org)

There’s no good reason why we continue to allow an estimated 1.2 million children to be trafficked every year are a victims of sexual abuse or slavery. (Love146)

Because where you live shouldn’t determine if you live.

If these sorts of statistics keep you up at night also, check out any of these organizations and help fight injustice:

World Vision
Lifesong for Orphans
Brighton Their World
Love146
Charity Water

(This list is not exhaustive by any means- there are many other great organizations out there as well!)

Like a Lion…

I’ve been doing a lot of driving recently, which means a lot of time in my car. This also means a lot of music. And I’ve been obsessed with a few songs, one of which is “Like a Lion” by David Crowder*Band. (If you see me driving around and I’m having a little dance party, I’m probably listening to this song.) I think it’s the chorus that really gets me…

My God is not dead
He’s surely alive
He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion

Listening to this for the first time, I remember thinking, Of course God isn’t dead. But then I thought, does my life really reflect that? Do I really live like I serve the one true, living God? What would change if my life really reflected a living God?

I’ve been mulling this thought over and over and over (see previous comment about driving a lot). My God is alive. And, yet, sometimes I act as if I’m already defeated. Like two weeks ago. I just sat in my office reading the email about the adoption and thinking…there’s no way that this adoption will ever be completed. There’s simply no way.

But that’s not the truth.

In fact, that’s not the truth at all.

Because my God’s not dead. He’s definitely alive. And He’s engaged in our story.

Romans 8 puts it this way (emphasis added),

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,

“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reading that description, I see a God who is ALIVE, who INTERCEDES for us, who will not let ANYTHING separate us from Him, and who makes us overwhelmingly conquerors. I love that phrase “overwhelmingly conquer” because it means that we don’t just get around whatever we face, we defeat it until we are incontestable winners. We serve a God who is actively, undeniably involved and engaged in our story. He is on our side.

This adoption hasn’t been easy in the sense that God has made our path smooth. It’s been easy in the sense that He has held our hands through every step, through every challenge, through every seemingly impassable obstacle.

And here’s my testimony to that.

As we got our amazing news about Baby Shows, I thought, there’s no way that we can make this happen in such a short amount of time. How are we going to bring Baby Shows home with this giant financial obstacle in our way? And I doubted my living God.

But then, over the last two weeks, we’ve had more than $2,500 come in for our adoption between individual donations and a grant from the Fatherless Foundation. That’s right. We cannot believe our God’s faithfulness to us.

Because our God makes us more than conquerors. He knows that there’s a child over in Africa with the last name of Shows. And He’s making a way where there is no way.

He is alive.

The Great African Zebra Giveaway!

We got some AMAZING news last week. I mean, it’s good. We can’t post it here, but rest assured, it’s some good news.

(Don’t ya hate when someone tells you that they have good news but don’t share it???)

Anyway! We so appreciate the support we’ve received that we’re doing a GIVEAWAY!

This giveaway includes almost $300 worth of items from Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda) and the folks at Dancing Zebras (hence the name “The African Zebra Giveaway”), with TWO Starbucks gift cards to boot! So how does it work?  From January 30 until February 13, all you have to do is make a donation toward our African Adoption*. For every $5, we put your name on the list. So, $10 puts your name on the list twice…$15 puts your name on the list three times….yeah, you get the picture. So let’s check out the goodies…

Handmade Plaque of Africa

African Plaque (Fr: Uganda)

Africa Plaque (fr: Uganda)

This beautiful plaque of the African continent was handmade in Kimpala, Uganda. The plaques were a very popular item and our team scooped up all the shop had. This piece would be a beautiful addition for any family/individual who has a heart for Africa.

Handmade Elephant Salad Tongs

Elephant salad tongs (fr: Kenya)

I picked these up from a large shop overlooking the Great Rift Valley. These beautiful, handmade salad tongs have elephants carved at the top.

Handmade Rwandan Earrings

Braided fabric earrings (Fr: Rwanda)

Magazine bead earrings (fr. Rwanda)

I brought back these two pairs of earrings from my first trip to Africa. They will give any outfit an international flair!

Dancing Zebras Owl Art!

Dancing Zebras - Knob owl wall art

Dancing Zebras - Embroidered Owl wall art

Add a little quirky fun in your home with these cute owl wall art items!

Dancing Zebras Fashion Items

Dancing Zebras decorative hair clip for adults (or dress up for little girls)

Dancing Zebras fabric earrings

Who doesn’t like pretty things? This hair clip and the earrings will make any outfit complete!

Dancing Zebras Gift Tags

Dancing Zebras gift tags

Make a gift a little more festive with these super cute gift tags!

Korah Basket

Handmade basket (Fr: Korah, Ethiopia)

Handmade basket (photo 2)

This beautiful handmade basket is from Korah, Ethiopia and will make a lovely addition to a living room, kitchen, dining room…basically ANYWHERE!

Magazine Necklace & Coin Purse

Magazine bead necklace

Magazine bead purse

Look fashionable with the magazine necklace and cute coin purse! I love my magazine necklaces and wear them all the time!

Handmade Giraffe (fr: Uganda)

Check out the cute handmade giraffe from Uganda! Although he could be mistaken for a zebra in this giveaway!

Ethiopian coffee

Coffee from the country who made it a culture? Need I say more?

$50 Starbucks Gift Card + $25 Starbucks Gift Card!

Speaking of coffee….We’re about to enter the coldest part of the year – make sure you keep warm and have great company with $75 worth of gift cards to Starbucks! Whether you are a fan of a caramel macchiato or a soy chai (my personal fave), this gift card is sure to brighten your day! And the day after that…And the day after that!

Fun, right? If you are interested, donate here:

 If you wish to make a donation by check, you can email me at showscarla [at] gmail [dot] com.

Okay, so this giveaway will be for two (2) weeks, starting January 30 and running through February 13, 11:59pm. I will draw one lucky donor’s name and announce it on the blog on February 14th – Valentine’s Day! Once I hear back from the winner, I’ll ship out the box with all their fun stuff!

Help us get our baby home and score some fun stuff! Even if you don’t win, you’re helping us make one less orphan out there!

After you donate…post something about this on Twitter, Facebook , and/or your blog and we’ll add your name again to the list.  Just be sure to leave a comment with the link to your post about it.

*If you want to be entered, but don’t want to make a donation, just email me at showscarla [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks again to Dancing Zebras for their awesome donations! Check them out on Etsy or Facebook! Thanks also to my dear friend Chelsey for adding to the giveaway!

A memorial stone for faith

It’s almost been one year since we started really pursuing our adoption. It’s crazy to think where we were last year. We had so little money to put toward this adoption. We weren’t really in a place where expanding our family was logical. But the calling was clear. Pursue it this year.

So we started on the path of adoption.

And we had doors we thought we were supposed to go through that closed.

Then we had to seek God again – “We did hear You, right? This is the path You called us to walk…right?”

When I think about the particular moment – the moment when Ethiopia didn’t work out for us – my heart still breaks. I was so certain that Baby Shows was in Ethiopia. I was prepared for the long wait (it was more logical for us anyway). It didn’t make sense to me. And I wanted to be a momma so desperately.

But if we had tried to force our idea of what God wanted for us, we would have missed Baby Shows. Because Baby Shows was in an entirely different African nation. One that we weren’t expecting, honestly. And I can’t tell you (yet) all the things that happened since we submitted our application, but I can tell you October was the reason we were supposed to walk the path that He placed us on. October 4 will remain one of those days that we will never forget. His plan was there all along. Hidden from us until that moment.

Now we are in 2012. God has amazing things for us this year. This is the year we hope to become a family of three.

Yet a mountain stands between us and that point. Last Friday, I was defeated. I couldn’t see how it was possible. I wavered in my faith.

What does it look like to have faith?

Although my husband is someone of great faith, I am not. I tend to timidity and fear (and a lot of “What ifs?!”). So this whole journey has been a long exercise of faith. And what I’ve learned is this.

Faith is a choice. It’s not a feeling.

There have been many moments where I don’t feel like I should believe. There have been many moments that when I look at the evidence, I shouldn’t believe. Because it is impossible by all earthly means.

But faith is a choice. It’s a choice to see what’s there and believe what isn’t. It’s a choice to believe despite all evidence to the contrary. The adoption is the first time in my entire life I have truly lived Hebrews 11:1 (The Amplified Version):

NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

Faith is something that only grows when challenged. Like a muscle, faith develops from a weight that tears the fibers apart so they can heal and become stronger. “Our faith grows the strongest on the sides of steep slopes where there’s less to cling to.”

 tree on the edge(Photo courtesy of craigcloutier on Flickr)

 

We ended up on a completely different timeline, one that has been incredibly quick. Even in this, God has been faithful in every step. Every single step. He has taught me what is meant by our “daily bread.” It seems that every need has been bigger than the funds we have personally. But we haven’t had a cost go unpaid. The funds we need are there exactly when we need them. Our friends have given sacrificially to help us bring Baby Shows home.

I cannot adequately express my gratitude that so many people have been faithful in the love of our heavenly Father, whose heart is for the Fatherless. And all of you have a beautiful part in our child’s story. We are so blessed by you.

So, to 2011 was a year of learning to have faith. It was my year to exercise belief.

I’m not sure what 2012 holds, what little gems God has prepared for me. But I know that if God is preparing our steps, whatever 2012 has, it will be ultimately good.