"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Grace not Perfection - By Brenna

Last week we finally unpacked Brenna's backpack.  It had been tucked under the bench in the entry way on the last day of school and forgotten.

For a while, anyway.

When she unpacked it, I found this treasure inside.  I am so thankful I did!


Grace not Perfection
By Brenna Joy Dietrich
May 2013

Hold yourself to a standard of grace
Not perfection
Grace is for people who need it most
And those people are you
Being perfect is impossible
Now grace that's easy
It runs from person to person
Never stopping
It flies like a jet plane
Faster than you can see

Perfection is in a deep dark hole
That you can't reach
Perfection is impossible
Grace is easy

(I love this glimpse into Brenna's heart.  I love her incite.  Reading her words makes my heart relax and sigh, as I let myself be filled up once again by the Grace my Brenna so beautifully described.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Daddy's Day

Usually we spend Father's Day at a lake.

Chad fishes. . . all by himself!

The kids and I make breakfast.  Then we tube and wakeboard.

Father's Day is usually one of our favorite days of the year, because being on the water is our favorite thing to do as a family. 

Not this year!  This year momma is not quite ready to climb back into the camper!  And the yard is not quite ready enough for us to take a weekend away.

The yard.  Ugh!  One of the reasons I did not want to build a home was the yard!  I do not enjoy starting a yard.  Once grass is established and flower beds are in place, I really like yard work - but the establishing part is NOT my favorite!

In fact, I dreaded yard work SO much that in April when it briefly warmed up, I was sad!  This never, ever happens!  I am not a winter lover. I typically c-rave spring.  This year when the snow started to melt, I was not happy.  Snow melting meant yard work, and I was not ready for work!  I was actually thrilled when the HUGE spring snow fell.  I was even (sort of) happy when the entire spring was cool and rainy.  Crummy weather meant it was not possible to work in the  yard - happy sigh!

Before we left for Ethiopia, I asked Chad if we could, pretty please, hire someone to do our landscaping.  After all, I did agree to do a ton of labor ourselves on the house already.  I also suffered through living in a camper for months - while working 2 jobs, caring for 5 kids, and laboring on a house.  I was quite convinced that I had earned professional landscaping. (Yep! I was milking it!)  The idea of hiring someone to grade the lot, haul black dirt, install sprinklers, edging, rock, and seeding the lawn was soooooo tempting.  Add in a few trees, an elaborate firepit, some pretty boulders, a couple of bushes, and a few potted flowers and my summer would be complete relaxation.  I could totally envision myself reading on the back patio.

Chad had another idea.  It was far cheaper.  It was also far less popular.  It was called "family labor" aka "sweat equity."

I will be honest.  I hated this idea.  I spent a lot of time scoping out the neighborhood,
 noticing the perfect landscaping at "all" the other homes.  I knew "everyone" hired it out - and "everyone" skipped seed and went straight to sod.

Returning from Ethiopia, I have been very thankful that we did not decide to hire this work done.  Coming home with eyes freshly reopened to the deep needs of the world makes me try to value every cent I have that much more.  If I rake and shovel and haul and plant, rather than hiring someone else to do it, I can use that same money to serve a purpose much more valuable.  It is hard to drive around and see how much money is "wasted" in America.  Almost every conversation contains a reference to things that we do/have/need/wish for that are totally unnecessary.  When the memory of houses smaller than my daughter's closet are so very vivid, listening to people talk about vacation planning, hot tubs to install, braces my children "need," TV shows to rush home to, etc. . . makes me want to scream sometimes.  I want to shout how selfish we all are.  I want to yell and scream and cry that if we chose to use that money on true needs, the world would be a better place.  And then I go to the store and buy ice cream and a new pair of shoes (when I have 10 pairs at home) and we choose which rock we will edge our house with, and then I want to scream at myself.  It is an ugly cycle.

Sometimes I hate having so much.

I will be totally honest here. 

Other times I wish to be "everyone."  I get tired of working hard.  I get tired of being patient.  I just want someone to do it for me.  I want to be selfish and spend my money on me, using it with no regard for anyone but me.

BUT I married this guy who says, "If we are capable of doing something, we should do it."

UGH! (small smile)

I really love my husband!

So we speant Father's Day like this -
 Chad dumped dirt.  Jay, Brenna, and I raked it flat, level, and smooth.
My construction advice for Jamison was, "If you ever have an opportunity to run equipment - do it!  Learning to run machines makes sure you spend less time running rakes and shovels!" 
 Luckily, Chad loves to run equipment.  This part of the project was fun . . . for him anyway!
 After we had it sort of level, Sierra took over.
Sierra LOVES to drive.  She spent the first part of the afternoon mowing - aka driving the tiny tractor.  Then she drove the Rhino with this ancient drag behind it leveling the black dirt.  She worked hard and smiled almost the whole time.
After about 5 hours of labor, the yard looked like this.
 The before picture was way to ugly to post!  We had nearly waist high weeds in what is not dirt.  First we mowed, then ran the drag over the area.  Soon Chad will get the black dirt hauled in so we can plant grass.
 This is my happy spot - for now.
We have a 1.6 acre lot.  The vast majority was torn up for construction.  This one corner of the lot remains grassy!  Silly - but this small area of grass gives me hope!  I promised the kids I would order a volleyball net and a tire swing to put in this area, so that we have a place to play.
The front yard is nearly ready for grass seed.  Chad needs to haul a couple more loads of black dirt.  We also need to purchase and install the edging and rock around the perimeter of the house.  So. . . another long day of labor and it will be ready. 
Then the wait for the grass to grow officially begins.
 We had a large branch break off one of our trees this spring.  Sierra and Chad cut it up a week or two ago.  A big pile of wood meant that it was high time we had a fire!
So, after supper we ran to town for a fire ring.
(Chad had big plans for a permanent fire pit in the not so distant future.  But we were all ready for some outdoor fun and relaxation, so we bought this one to use while we wait for the master piece.)
 I love a campfire.  I was really looking forward to a peaceful evening by the fire.

Brenna and Joshua had s'mores and then headed into bed.

 I figured once the littles were in bed, the fire would get quiet and cozy.
 However, this little "angel"
 and this tall son had other plans!
They were wild and crazy.  They laughed and joked and burned everything they could think of.  Then they laughed and joked some more.  There was nothing peaceful about this fire - but it was memorable!
 As I sat at the wild, crazy, and very noisy fire between my husband and my own father - I thought about how lucky I am.  I have been loved and mentored by these two hard-working, God-honoring men all of my life.  I have the intense joy of watching them encourage, discipline, and guide my children daily.  Because of the example that these men set, my kids will more than likely never struggle to understand the deep love that God our Father has for them.  They have been well loved by their earthly father and grandfather, making loving and being loved by God so natural.
We are truly blessed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 2014 as Recorded by My iPhone

I am so thankful that school is out!  Though I continue to work all summer, much pressure is removed once my schedule is the only one my life revolves around!  (As a mom, that is of course never completely true - but our schedule this summer is MUCH more relaxed than during the school year!  I am so, so, so, so thankful!)
The note that Chad included with my June flowers said "Congrats!  You survived the school year!"
Yep.  That about sums it up!
More relaxed does not mean more organized though!  So far, the only photos I have snapped have been with my iPhone.  So here is a glimpse into our life through the snapshots on my phone!
 Jamison became a licensed driver today, which means my schedule became even more simple!
While I will truly miss the time and conversations Jamison and I had while driving to and from XC and track practices, I will also enjoy the freedom that his drivers license will give both of us.  AND since Jay is an excellent driver, this transition is fairly stress free.
The other BIG change in Jamison's life is that he is working, for his dad.
So far it is working out really well.
Jay goes to summer training at 9 and reports to work about noon.
At work he has done a lot of job site clean-up.  He has emptied a lot of trailers and dumped a lot of garbage.  Gaining his drovers license has now promoted him to "errand boy" which he enjoys even more than sweeping.  Ha!
It is not glamorous, but the pay is good and so is the experience.
He seems to be liking it, and the guys are wishing he would work more hours - so he is definitely doing a good job.
All the added responsibilities have not taken the jokester out of Jay (thank goodness!)
One day while we were parked waiting to drop off Brenna at camp, he pulled on the car racing helmet that Joshua had brought for show and share.  We both laughed hysterically at the looks people gave us as they parked nearby.  My tall son really is FUNNY in a quiet and stealthy way.
 Joshua has lost his two front teeth.
I love toothless kids.  His grin makes me smile, every time.
Joshua is going to summer camp at Montessori every day until 12:30.  This has been a really good thing!  It keeps him involved in activities and friendships for part of the day, and since Krissy picks him up after she is done with summer school, he still has some extra time at home.
So far it is working very well. 
I teased Jay that I would call this photo "Defensive Riding!"
It really was Joshua being prepared for show and share, but my version is funnier.
 He has also been able to ride horse with Grandpa Scott.
Since Grandpa retired recently and our house is (kind of) complete, the kids are hoping for many more afternoons in the saddle.
I love this photo.
Grandma and Grandpa think of everything.  They have shovels and buckets so that the little kids can play in the sand in the indoor arena while they wait to ride.  Grandpa's riding arena is definitely a multipurpose facility!

Brenna adores all animals.  She is forever begging me for one pet or another.  I am just NOT a pet person, poor girl!  Mom's pet avoidance makes the horses and cats and Grandpa's house that much more fun.  She is a good little rider for sure!
Brenna was able to spend last week at a mission camp called Renovate.  She enjoyed the experience very much.  She had fun meeting new kids and doing some projects in the community. 
I am shocked to say I have no photos of Sierra on my phone!  She is forever taking "selfies," I guess since I see her taking so many photos of herself, I forget to take them?
Sierra has been a super helper this summer.
I come home each day to a clean kitchen.  That is about the nicest thing anyone can do for me.  She also watches Joshua from 2:30 when Krissy leaves for work until I get home.  They have not always gotten along well.  In fact one time this spring he snuck out his window and tried to run away when she was babysitting!  (Good mom that I am, I laughed when I received her 911 text.  LOL!  Everyone was fine!)  This summer Sierra has really thought about their relationship and how to improve it.  They are now staying home together without incident.  I am very impressed with my 13 year old!

Krissy keeps busy with summer school in the morning.  She is working a TON at Gloria Jeans.  Five or six days a week, she works there from 3 to 10:30.  We rarely see her.  I have started calling her the celebrity sister.  When she is in the house, we all stop what we are doing just to be near her!
Today was the best day of the summer thus far.
Teresa and Lincoln were in town.  I had not seen my precious nephew since February.  I was so excited to have some time with him this afternoon.

So were the kids!
Lincoln is crawling everywhere and smiling like crazy.  He is easy to take care of and even easier to love.
 (photo by Joshua!)
Snuggled up with a baby is absolutely one of my favorite things in the universe.  I am so incredibly thankful for this bundle of love, and every moment I get with him (though they are too few) is precious to me.

You may not hear from me again for a loooong time.  Sierra is pacing the kitchen, anxiously awaiting a run with me.  She wants to go long.  She has been running 2 mornings a week with the high school girl.  She missed practice today because of Jay's driving test.  So now she wants to make up the run.  I am certainly not in good enough shape to go long with her, but I promised to try.

UGH!  (smile)

Wish me luck!  I have long wished for a running partner, but I suspect this one will kick my butt!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Celebrating 3 Years as a Family of 7

In all of my life, there are many things I have anxiously awaited - Christmas, summer vacations, Prom, graduation, Chad asking me to be his wife, our wedding, being pregnant, hearing our baby's heartbeat, feeling her kick, holding her, and then repeating that waiting for our next three blessings, etc. . .  But absolutely NONE of those waits prepared me for the wait I endured as we worked to bring Joshua Gebeyehu home from Ethiopia.  NOTHING! 

Now, this does not mean I love him more than my husband or other children.  Love is amazing that way.  Love multiplies like nothing else.  Just when you think you could not possibly love more, you can.  I love each member of my family with an intensity that takes my breathe away.  Yet, while that love is equally intense, it is not the same for each of my loved ones.  Just as each member of our family is completely unique, my love for them is as well.  Love truly never ceases or fails -  God's love that is.  It is THE most amazing gift God has given us.  And I do my best to replicate His love as I love my incredible family.

I am certain that the reason the wait for Joshua was so unbearable is that during every other important wait I have endured I knew the one I was waiting on was OK.  Or, I at least felt like I was doing all I could to make sure they were OK.  While I waited to meet our belly babies, I heard their heartbeats, I went to the doctor, I ate well, I exercised, I could feel the baby kicking, wiggling, and hiccuping.   Waiting to meet them was hard mostly because I do not wait well!  Waiting for Joshua Gebeyehu was hard because I knew he was alone.  I doubted he was eating as well he would at home.  I doubted he was loved as I longed to love him.  I knew that while he was surviving, he was not OK.

As Johnny Carr says in his book Orphan Justice (A post about this book is coming soon.  While I am still digesting it, it is the most heart-changing book I have read in the last two years.  Buy it!), "Man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children.  God never intended for one child to live in an orphanage."  and "Orphanages are not inherently evil, but let's be honest.  A child never enters an orphanage under good circumstances, and an orphanage can never replace a family."

I have never, ever, ever felt more relief in my entire life than I felt on June 6, 2010, the day that my mom, Krissy, JOSHUA, and I walked off a plane in Bismarck, ND and into the arms of the rest of our family.  Knowing we were home, safe and together, forever was the best feeling ever. EVER!

This is my favorite photo from that day, because when I was finally off all the planes with our small son on my hip, wrapped in Chad's arms I could breathe again.  Our family was together at last.
Every time I look at it I think, "A father to the fatherless" and I start to tear up.
I am so blessed to be married to this man.
It is both hard and easy to realize that this moment happened three years ago today!  Hard because time flies when you are having fun, and being a mom and wife is way more fun than I ever could have imagined.  Easy because, well, JGCD has changed so much. It is truly a work of God.
In many ways, June 6 is Joshua's birthday.  It is the day our family was united in the flesh, just as much as the moment/day we were first held our oldest kids. We call it his family day, and every year I want to celebrate in a special way.
This year. . . well, I worked.  I had had big plans for today.  I thought we would get a hotel room and swim and order pizza.  Joshua loves to swim and pizza is by far his favorite food.  It has rained for weeks and swimming has not happened yet this summer, so my plan seemed perfect.  That is until I looked at the calendar and realized that June 6 was a Thursday.  Thursday is my loooong day at work.  I work both jobs on Thursday, and I had committed to working late at church - so a pool party would just not be possible.
So, I did the American thing.  I asked Joshua if he wanted to have a pool party another date, or if he wanted me to buy him the scooter he had been eyeing instead.
My American Ethiopian son, chose the scooter.
Funny thing is that was OK.
Three years into this he does not need a fun family moment to feel special, connected, and loved.
He just knows he is.
Three years into this, coming with mommy to work and handing out popcorn to the "little" kids is a connecting event. 
It was OK.  Not the dreamy day that I had planned in my head, but OK.
Tonight as I tucked him in, he asked, "Mommy, what is an orphan?"
I explained that an orphan is a child who does not have a mom or a dad.
Then he asked why his Ethiopia mom died and why his Ethiopia dad could not take care of him and why. . .
It was the most detailed and potentially difficult conversation we have had.
It was also the best.
I love that he asks - because I know he wonders.
I love that he trusts me enough to question.
I love the peace that God fills me with when I answer to the best of my ability.
I love that after the questions are answered (for the moment) we can pray together.  We can thank God that although there is much sadness, He can fix it. 
I love that after the hardest conversation we have ever had, my son fell asleep on my chest before I could finish singing him the silly Amharic English song I desperately made up on our very first night together more than three years ago.
And then, as he slept on my chest,  I whispered a prayer of thanks.  "Thank you God that you have not created Joshua with a spirit of fear, but with a spirit of sonship."
That prayer is the very same verse/prayer I have claimed for our son for the past three years, except that tonight it was a deep rich prayer of gratitude and thanks rather than a hope and a promise for his future.
Redemption is an amazing thing. I am in awe, truly, of the redemtion He has allowed me to witness.
Thank you Jesus.  Thank you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Jemo Trip 2013, Day 7 - Saying Good-Bye

There is no sugar coating it.
Leaving Jemo was HARD!
In all honesty, I am still getting over it.  I have been so sad all weekend.  There are a few things that have gone into that sadness, but one of them is missing Ethiopia.  Wondering when I will be able to return, wondering how the kids are, treasuring the fact that we made some really special connections and longing to grow those has caused a heaviness to settle over my heart.  I am praying through it, giving it to the Lord, trusting it all to Him.
It is amazing how so many things can change in just a few days.  When we arrived at Jemo, almost all the kids looked like strangers.  I had studied and studied their profile pictures.  I had practiced pronouncing each name.  I wanted to arrive ready.  I wanted to love, serve, and invest from the very first moment I arrived.
My studying did help.  As kids told me their names, many times I instantly remembered who their sponsor family was.  However, even with all my studying, when I first saw all the kids - I was totally overwhelmed!  It looked like a sea of unfamiliar and very scared faces!
 This was the children lined up to greet us on our first day at Jemo.
 As I look closely at these photos after I got to know the kids, the fear and nervousness on many of their faces has become so evident.  They were so brave in welcoming us, accepting us, allowing us to love them, and loving us in return.
Look very closely at this photo.
Do you see the beads of sweat?  They are absolute evidence of how nervous the kids were. It was NOT hot enough for the kids to be sweating this much.  We did not see them sweating like this at any time during the rest of the week.  (Or at least I didn't.)  I remember Joshua sweating just like this when he was very, very scared when he first joined our family.  Just like these brave kidos, he put on a happy face and "performed" in the happy way he assumed we expected.
I am SO thankful that in both cases, relationship and love changed everything!
By Thursday, our final day at Jemo,  the kids were truly joyful in our presence.
 And I knew many of the children by name.
It was so wonderful to greet the children with an Ethiopian handshake/kiss combo and be able to say "Salem (hello) Tigist!"
We spent Thursday morning in various ways.
 Chad had truly enjoyed working with the men, so he spent time helping them with the fence project.
 After greeting the children, we broke them into four groups.
One group decorated t-shirts.
One played games.
The third group enjoyed another Bible story.
The final group simply colored pictures.
(Each child rotated through all 4 groups.)
 As I mentioned before, the kids worked well no matter how small their personal space was.
We gave each child 3 crayons.  They were satisfied with that.  They traded as they wished.
The favorite colors were red, yellow, and green - the colors of the Ethiopian flag.
 Ashlee and the kids found a spot with a bit of shade for the Bible story.

 The favorite game was a bit like Duck, Duck, Goose.
One person circled the group holding a jacket.
All of the children sang a rhyme in Amharic.
The child holding the jacket eventually dropped the jacket behind someone.  That child then picked up the jacket and chased the other around the circle, trying to be the first one in the empty space.
Adults and teens watched the game with wide smiles, singing and clapping along to the song.
 Getting to know this boy was so fun!  His profile photo made him look like a difficult "thug."  His sponsor mom is experienced and loves all teens.  She helped me hang the profile pictures before the launch and I teased her that this boy was one only she could win over.
Her prayers have obviously been effective (smile) because this boy was nothing like I would have expected from his profile photo!  He was kind, polite, and very proud of the t-shirt he had made!
 In Ethiopia the meaning of one's name is important.
Kidist means saint.  Does she not look like a saint?
 Haimanote did a beautiful job on her shirt!
 Kristen did a beautiful job helping and encouraging the young artists.
 By Thursday, we were all cozy together.
Friendships had been made.
 Trust was beginning to be evident in the children
 and between leaders.
 We were all feeling a lot like family.
At lunch time, the feast was served.
(I blogged more about this earlier.)
The kids were joyful and celebratory.
 I loved watching them eat
 and drink!
After we finished lunch, we wandered back into the center of the compound and discovered the children had been seated for a good-bye ceremony.
 As it became clear in our hearts that we needed to prepare to say good-bye, Chad gathered the fence crew for a photo.  He will hang this in his office.  Building is a part of who he is, having the opportunity to build with these men was a blessing to them all.
I was so proud of Chad that week.  He was genuinely accepted by the crew.  That did not come easy.  He chose to persistently work with them.  He chose to ignore their concern that it was too hard for him.  He chose to follow - not to lead.  He is used to leading in construction, but in Ethiopia he followed.  He labored, and he earned trust and friendship because of those decisions.
It was awesome to witness.
 Fikre told us to join the kids for a final photo.
Where we were once separate - the kids in one line, us in another - here we are united.
Where once the kids were fearful - here they are silly and joyful.
(happy sniff)
 I expected that this photo would be our good-bye.
But the leaders of Jemo had another plan.
It was totally unexpected, and it shocked us all completely.
Each of the male leaders of the church spoke to us (through Fikre's translation).
They each blessed us with words of thanks, gratitude, and hope.
My mind and heart were too full to be able to quote each man, but one comment caused my heart to rejoice more than the others.  One of the men spoke about trust being built during our time at Jemo.  He said that our time there proved to them that we really do love their children.  Through our visit they fully understood that we are all one family and are together working for the future of the children and the community.
That was an answer to my personal prayer for this trip, and I am so very thankful that God allowed me to hear those words spoken aloud.
 After they made their thank you speeches, they presented each member of our team with a beautifully wrapped gift.
That was so humbling to me.  In many ways we give out of our "much."  Chad and I had to sacrifice to go on this trip.  We robbed some of our savings, worked hard to fund-raise, took time away from jobs, etc. . .  However the tiny amount we sacrificed can not even begin to compare to the sacrifice these people make to give.  They gave out of their "little."  They are  among the most amazing, beautiful, loving people I have ever been surrounded by. 
They took great joy in giving us these gifts.
I love the smiles on the faces of these ladies.  They were so concerned when we arrived.  Yet - they trusted us with their children.  They allowed us access to their most precious gifts.  They were kind and courageous and gracious to us in many, many ways.  Trust and hope and understanding blossomed in their hearts and in each  of ours during our time together.
They have little, but they gave with great joy.
I am so humbled, and I have so much to learn from these sisters.
As we were called up to receive out gifts, the ladies and children started clapping and chanting some words I did not know.  Helina finally caught my eye and motioned that they were telling us to open our gifts.  We quickly tore into them.
Inside each gift was a beautiful, hand-loomed, Ethiopian scarf.
Each is stunning.
Each will be worn with pride and serve to remind us of the special memories of lessons learned and friendships made during this trip.
 After the gifts were opened, we were instructed to head to the bus.  The children were instructed to wave good-bye, and remain seated until we were loaded on the bus.  After we were gone, they each were to receive a mango as a farewell treat. 
The very wise and helpful CHC staff had chosen this procedure - hoping it would be easy for all of us.
I do not like good-byes.  I was already feeling overwhelmed, and so I followed orders and headed straight to the bus.  The children quickly figured out that this good-bye was final.  Many of them left their seats in order to be close to us.
One young beauty caught me for a big hug as she sobbed.
It was HARD!  The miles and language barrier seemed so huge as I longed to pray with her, bless her, and comfort her.  Instead I hugged her for a minute and said "Ciao! amisayganalo!"  (Good-bye!  Thank you!)
I walked onto the bus sniffing as did the rest of our team.
 This was my final glimpse of Jemo.
Some cheers, some waves, and my brother, Desaleng, with his usually happy eyes so sad.
He always greeted us with much joy.
Not this time.
This time hehad  snuck around the compound so he could watch us leave, but he could not bring himself to smile.  Once again, I hated the barriers.  I wanted to run off the bus.  Give him a huge hug and tell him I would call him soon.  All I could do was blow him a kiss, say a silent prayer, and hope to visit him again in the coming years.
I miss him.
For real.
Always the perfect hosts, Fikre and Helina allowed us to sniffle as we drove away.
They seemed to understand.
They drove us back to the guest home to pack.
Since we had no water, packing did not take long.
Discovering there was no water, meaning NO showers before we began our loooooong trip home was one of the moments I was most proud of this team.  It was a real bummer!  We were all really dreading the flights.  We all really, really wanted to shower before we elft the country.  Yet no one threw a fit.  No one was mad or grumpy.  Instead we shared baby wipes and made the best of things.
After we finished packing, Fikre and Helina took us back to the market and then out for supper.
We had supper at a place called "Rodeo Addis."  It was a Texas themed restaurant in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!  It was a light-hearted and fun meal.
 Fikre modeled the menu!
(The menu was shaped like a cowboy hat.)
 Helina got a hold of Troy's phone and watched all his videos.
She laughed and laughed.
(Especially when she saw the "sausage dance.")
 We all did.
We got to the airport about 2.5 hours before our flight.  I was once again shocked at how things had changed.  The process was so simple and organized.  (It was crazy when we were there to bring JG home.)  We got through lines with ease.  It is clear that making things go smoothly for travelers has been a priority to the Ethiopian people.  While in the airport I asked Chad if he had seen the restroom.  An Ethiopian worker overheard me and politely pointed the way.  This happened again when I was looking for our gate.  The service was truly incredible.  In my opinion it was the best we received at any airport.
While none of us were looking forward to the flights - (there is NO way to look forward to the flights!)  by the time we were at the airport, we were looking forward to being home with family.  We had had NO Internet access all week (save 20 minutes one day) and we were anxious to land in Washington, DC and check in with the ones we love and the ones we work with.
Sierra snapped this photo hoping to catch a little bit of WiFi at the airport.
She was unsuccessful, but the photo is sure cute!
The flights home were. . . looooooong!
16 hours from Addis to DC.
One chair in our row did not recline.
Sierra got airsick.
Chad barely slept.
Yet, I slept a lot.
I played a lot of solataire.
The food was OK.
The time passed more quickly than I had hoped.
When we landed in DC, Chad's dad and his wife were waiting for us as we had an 8 hour layover.  They were very gracious when we asked if we could just go to their home rather than on a driving tour of DC.  We probably should have checked out the city, but we were so weary.  We also stunk!  It had been way too long since we had showered.  A shower and a couch sounded like heaven.
(I do confess that I also felt like a traitor!  The rest of our team was sitting in the airport while we showered.) 
Sierra was feeling a bit better, but not great as we prepared to board our nect flight, so I picked up some Dramamine for her.  She took two before I could stop her.  Two is the recommended dosage, but I am really sensitive to the sleep med in Dramamine. I would never be able to take 2, but Sierra does fine with Benadryl so I thought she might be OK. . .
 She was OK alright!
She was totally oblivious!  She slept like a rock all the way to Denver.  Chad and I kept a very close eye on her in Denver as she was clearly out of it.  We made her eat, and I had to keep reminding her to chew!  She does not remember anything about being in Denver and we were there for at least 6 hours!
Just as we were to board our flight from Denver to Bismarck, it was delayed.  Once again we all hung in there - even though we really did NOT want to sleep on the floor of the Denver airport that night.  It came really, really close - but God sent us a determined pilot who braved a storm and flew us home.   God even put the members of our team who hated flying the most to sleep on this lightning filled flight.  As Fran told me this week, "God protected us from beginning to end of this trip."
He certainly did.
We were very, very blessed.