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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013

 Brenna Joy, our "snow princess."

In our house, mom has a few costume rules.
1. They must be appropriate.  (No "hoochie-momma" costumes allowed.)
2. I only pay for them through elementary school.

Which means. . . this is Brenna's final costume.
 These two had a ball trick or treating together.

 Joshua chose his costume with Krissy in mind.

She is a Batman fan.
Which means he is a Batman fan.

And a cute one at that!
Krissy had to work - but we stopped in for hugs and pizza.
Think they love each other?

In addition to Halloween, it is "Half-Way Day!"  
I am exactly half way through this pregnancy!
Brenna said it well today when she stated, "Mom.  Everyone once in a while, it hits me.  We are going to have another baby!  I am SO excited!"

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Doing ALL Things Through Christ who Strengthens

It was THE day many of them had been anxiously awaiting for the last 12 months.  The day in which they hoped to end feeling triumphant - justly rewarded for all of their hard work.

It was a dreamy day for some.

For others, it was not.

I am not an athlete.  I actually avoid competition as much as is humanly possible.  As I have watched my kids compete, I have realized I avoid competition because I fear failure.  I like safety.  I like feeling sure I will succeed before I even attempt something.  In academics, generally speaking, if I study hard enough I will succeed.  A broken bone, bad weather, or a case of the flu does not interfere too much in test taking and paper writing.  So, I tend to stick to that stuff.

Athletes, well, you all have to have great courage.  You have to be willing to give your all - your heart, body, and mind.  You have to be willing to risk injury, accidents, mind-games, wind resistance, and all other sorts of uncontrollable variables.  You choose to lay it all on the line, leave it all on the track or court or course or field. . .

That amazes me.

It also inspires me.

I live much of my life as an academic.  (At least as my definition of an academic.)  I take calculated risks - carefully calculated risks. . . only.  I think and think and think, making sure I only proceed IF my success seems certain.  Which, is safe, BUT it is also incredibly stifling at times.

I am realizing that I want to live like an athlete. (Again by my definition, that is.)  I want to live with abandon - except that the idea terrifies me.  It is totally foreign territory, and although there is a part of me that feels FREE at the thought, the larger part of me is simply terrified.

And then I think of my son.

My son who trains diligently every. single. day.  My son who never misses a practice, even at 6 am.  My son who has raced PR after PR.  My son who has also "hit the wall" mid-race.  My son who has worked through a back injury, shin splints, and a strained knee WHILE practicing every day.  My son who has chosen to persevere even when faced with adversity.

I watched my son race today.  It was the biggest race of his young life, the 2013 State High School Championships.  He (and I) had high hopes.  He had done the training. He had faced several obstacles.  Now, it was time to reap the rewards.

But. . . things didn't click.  It was not the race of his dreams.  It was not the race of the team's dreams.  It was, instead, a rough day.

And still I learn through him.

You see, as I think through ALL of his training, ALL of his sacrifice, ALL that he left on the course today.  I see NOTHING wasted.  Even though the result was not what he had hoped, I see success.  I see gain.

I see courage.

I see character.

I see strength.

I see honor.

I see boldness.

I see perseverance.

I see friendship.

I see pain.  Now, I HATE seeing my kids in pain.  HATE it.  Yet the only way to avoid this pain is to NEVER try.  If he had never tried, I would not see the courage, the character, the strength, the honor, the boldness, the perseverance, the friendship.  If he had kept things safe, as his mom tends to, he would have missed so much more than he gained.  Even though today stunk, the benefits STILL outweighed the risks.

I know this sounds like a pep-talk to my boy.  However, it is more than that, it is a pep-talk to myself.  I am slowly realizing that the safe life that I love to live is filled with holes.

My tall son loves the verse Philippians 4:13.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength"

I have been thinking about that verse a lot during this season of my life.

We tend to cling onto that verse.  If we are really honest, what we want it to say is "I will always succeed because Christ gives me his super powers."

However when we look into the context, that is not what is being conveyed at all.

Here is a bit more of that passage from Philippians.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

God's Provision

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There is a lot more in this passage than "super powers."

Paul (the author of Philippians) is actually saying  that he has been through it all.  He has been hungry and full.  He has been in danger and safe.  He has "won races" and "hit the wall."  Through ALL of those circumstances, he has learned that he could do ALL things through him/Christ who strengthens.

It is not about a super-power.

It is not about knowing God is with you because you feel strong.

It IS about learning that you can survive every situation because God/Christ will give you enough strength to get through it.  It IS about taking risks, for him, and trusting that He will give you the strength to get through the day.  It is in the risks that we learn the most.

But, boy oh boy, do I hate taking risks!

Perhaps that means I hate depending on the Lord's strength?

I am praying through all of this as I discern what God would like to do in and through me.  I am most certainly a work in progress. . .

I am thankful today for my son.  My son who is willing to take risks, willing to run the race, willing to "hit a wall," willing to learn just what it means to do all things through Christ who gives him strength.  

Today was harder than some - but even in the hard (or perhaps especially in the hard) Christ IS strengthening.

Thank you, Jamison, for the courage you are teaching me to strive towards.

I am proud of you, my son.  You inspire me.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Month 4 - 19 Weeks

Tomorrow I will be 19 weeks pregnant, almost half-way there.  Crazy!

Crazier still, I feel great!  I had someone tell me this week that pregnancy in your late 30's is torture.  They were lamenting for how terrible I must feel.  Now, I know from experience, that the "best" is yet to come - but at the moment, I feel incredible.  I truly have NO complaints.  I am feeling beyond blessed, and I am totally savoring this time.

Photo credits go to Sierra for these Oct. 20 shots.

The weight gain has begun, and I can honestly say, I am not enjoying it.  I have no issue with my profile changing - but the numbers climbing on the scale do not excite me.  I have always gained about 40 lbs per pregnancy.  It never really stressed me out in the past.  However, throughout my 30's maintaining my weight has gotten more challenging.  I am certain losing baby weight will be more challenging as well, and I do not look forward to that at all. So - I am making sure to eat healthfully, exercise as is appropriate and possible in our crazy schedule, thus taking the best care of myself and our baby possible.  I am trying to balance being healthy - I may or may not have eaten my weight in chocolate chip cookies during one of my pregnancies - and allowing my body all the calories it needs during these next months.  I will have the rest of my life to worry about my jean size, so I am doing my best to enjoy this expandable pant phase to the max!

I am impatiently waiting for the baby to kick with enough force that the kids can feel him.  I can feel him internally, but they have not had the pleasure yet.  Joshua and Brenna try sometimes, and they will be SO excited when they succeed.

I took a video of the doctor checking the baby's heartbeat today so that the kids could hear it.  I think that the sound of an unborn baby's heartbeat is one of the most incredible noises there is. Just listening to it makes my heart sigh. The youngest three were thrilled.  In fact, Sierra texted me before my appointment to remind me of my promise.  Krissy was not impressed.  She said it just sounds like wind in a microphone. (His/her heartbeat was 150 today. I am measuring 20.  And I was a great patient and received my flu shot today.)

The ultrasound is 3 weeks away.  If the baby is not moving too much, we will get to see her in 3D!  I am really looking forward to seeing this little one, be it 2D or 3D.  I am still not thrilled about finding out the gender - but I am OK with it.  Gender neutral seems to be a thing of the past, so I may as well keep with the times (as my girls tell me!)

There continues to be a list of names on our fridge.  Everyone is talking baby names, except Chad.  What the kids do not fully grasp is that Chad has named them all.  I have always come up with many, many names.  In the end, the one daddy picks sticks.  Daddy figures that since the kids insist we discover whether this baby is a girl or a boy before it arrives, he may as well put the name game on the back burner for a couple more weeks.  Krissy insists she should have much control in the naming her sibling, which makes me laugh, since she tries to be disinterested about every other detail of this pregnancy!

The "comic relief" this last month included:

  • Sierra being absolutely shocked at the changes in my body.  She seriously can not believe how huge I am. . .  I keep telling her that she has not seen the half of it yet.  Poor girl!  She is totally pumped about the baby, but she admits to being scared to see what he/she does to my body before its all over.  I can not count the number of times she has looked at my profile and said with shock, "I really did not know you would look like THIS!"
  • Today Joshua announced that he really hopes the baby is a girl.  We were shocked.  We replied, "Really?  YOU want a baby sister?"  He laughed hysterically and said, " JK (teen slang for Just Kidding) I totally want a baby brother!"  His "JK" has cracked me up all day.
  • Chad is totally indulgent about the extra sleep my body demands.  He just grins, calls me his little incubator, and tucks me in for a nap.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

An Excursion for an Excursion

Dating Chad has always been a crazy combination of typical things - movies, dinner, bowling - and totally unique.  I have spent A LOT of hours watching him work on his Buick.  I have spent hours and hours and hours watching him shoot, load ammo, and pick up brass.  My Senior Prom was a pistol shoot in California.  (I still think he owes me a Prom dress - ha!)  I have also had the extreme pleasure of traveling with Chad to all sorts of locations.  From our rain drenched tenting honeymoon to super extravagant resorts in the Caribbean our travel experiences have been extremely varied as well.  The moral of the story - Dating Chad Dietrich is ALWAYS an adventure.

This weekend we set off on an excursion that proves when you are parenting 5.5 kids, you will call ANYTHING a date!

 We left our house at 6:20 am on Friday morning and headed to the airport.

Hilariously, after printing our plane tickets I discovered that I really would follow my husband anywhere with out asking a single question.  You see, I thought we were flying to Cincinnati, OH - but in actuality, we were headed to Dayton, OH.  
 After sipping a cup of "high quality" coffee at the Bismarck Airport's only retailer, we boarded our first flight.

We touched down in Minneapolis and quickly boarded flight number 2.
We landed in Dayton about 2 hours later and immediately found our ride waiting for us.
 Our chauffeur was actually a car salesman, who promptly drove us 33 miles to the dealership at which he works.  Chad spent about 25 minutes finalizing some paperwork, and then we hit the road.
 For real.

Chad LOVES to purchase vehicles and construction equipment.  He is also really good at it! He is forever watching eBay and other online auction sites for just the right deal.  He had been stalking every Ford Excursion in the country for the past couple of months and finally found the "perfect" one.  So he bought it.  And then, he learned that the dealership would not ship it to us sight unseen.  SO - he bought us a couple of plane tickets and convinced me that it would be a fun date!
We DID enjoy a beautiful sunset together.

We DID enjoy a lot of quiet.  Instead of sneaking in snatches of conversation on between the stories our kids are always sharing, we had long stretches of quiet along with both meaningful and frivolous conversations of our own.

I DID read an entire novel.
 We DID bypass the Interstate for a bit in favor of Iowa farmland.

Miles and miles of corn and family farms along with fall foliage was a relaxing change from the heavy traffic of Indianapolis and Minneapolis.
We DID try a couple of local restaurants that were new to us.

We DID stop to sleep at a hotel for a couple of hours.

I DID get a long nap in the back seat of the monster sized SUV.

We DID get to see Ryan, Miranda, Addisyn, Ainsley, and Ahlera for a bit.
We DID get Krissy's car picked up from the dealer that was fixing it in Fargo.

It was good!

I will be honest and say that I felt like a black and blue, slightly pregnant, paperclip by the time we arrived home on Saturday night.  That many miles in planes and a vehicle were a bit hard on my expanding body - but after a good night sleep, a long back massage, and a day or normal activity, I am feeling much better.

Life with Chad is filled with crazy excursions, and I surely enjoy the ride.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

WDA 2013 - A Day to Be Thankful!

I have felt extremely thankful this week.  You see one year ago this week - our house flooded.  I had left for church that Wednesday feeling so thankful.  We were almost done with the build.  We were all sleeping under the same roof.  I was able to wash clothes and cook meals again.  Life was starting to feel manageable.  Fast forward four hours (or less) and we returned from church to water, water everywhere.  I thought at first that it was something we could soak up and just go on.  But, it was not.

I remember coming home from work the next day to a house demolished.  About a fourth of the newly completed house was torn apart.  It was SO much worse than I expected.  I remember crying in the garage wondering how I would face the kids.  How would I encourage them when I was crushed?  How could I ask them to be brave when the bedrooms they had just built for themselves were now ruined?

I remember vowing to keep everything as normal as possible and their stress level low.

I remember moving them into a hotel the night before the WDA 2012 meet.  It was literally over 100* in our house and we were trying to gather our things. (They needed to heat up the house to dry out the insulation and wood.) It was miserable, sad, and stressful. There was no stove or microwave, so I was standing in the partially ruined kitchen making Jamison the promised pre-race spaghetti in a hot plate in my suffocatingly hot house.  I was determined that one way or another, I would keep my promises.  Spaghetti would be made by ME one way or another.  It was one thing I could control and I was grasping tightly to anything that was WITHIN my control. 

I remember worrying about all that Jamison had experienced that week, wondering how he could possibly race well.

I remember fighting tears, as Jay stood on the line ready to race, because I was asked by a neighbor/fellow xc mom why there had been restoration trucks at our still under construction house.

I remember feeling so incredibly tired, yet so incredibly proud of my kids.  

I remember wishing we could just stay at the meet forever - that one small corner of my life felt deliciously normal.  Going back to face our real life felt SO overwhelming.

Fast forward to THIS morning, and you found one very thankful momma flipping pre-race pancakes in a beautiful kitchen thanking God that we have gone from barely surviving to thriving!

As we prayed for Jamison before the race, I was once again near tears - but these were happy thankful tears.  God has taken us a long way in the last 12 months, and I am truly thankful.

Pulling up to this year's WDA race, I felt only excitement!
 I knew by the way the pre-race team meeting ended it was going to be a good race!

I have teased Jay all year that the CHS boys have a wimpy "Patriots" chant as they leave the team huddle.  Today I heard a loud, deep, convincing, enthusiastic "PATRIOTS!" and I knew these boys were ready to run!
 I think Coach Leis gets as nervous as his boys!

I am very thankful for the dedication and precision with which he coaches the boys.
 Pre-race run downs.

It was chilly and windy out.  I was feeling sorry for these partially dressed boys!  However, Jamison later explained that after taking off his sweats, hat, gloves, and sweatshirt he feels incredibly light and fast!  So, maybe the cold is a good thing?

(Or not)
 And they are off!

(Notice the smoke from the starting pistol lingering in the air!)

 Super steep hill - but look who is waiting at the top?

Sierra, or course!

I did not even know she was there when I snapped this photo.  I was thrilled to discover her right at the spot that JD needed her the most.  Sometimes siblings are THE BOMB!
 The boys had the "pleasure" of climbing that monster hill twice.

 Before the race, Coach "ranked" Jamison 29th.  Coach Lies took all the racers from all the school, listed their top times, and put them in order based on that tabulation.  According to Coach, JD had the 29th fastest time in the WDA prior to this race.  

Because of the wind and the hills, it was not really a day to PR - but it was still a great day to race.

Jamison ran hard and strong - with all the fight and spark and enthusiasm that marked the beginning of the season.  He finished 23rd, beating Coach's goal for him by 6 placings!

AND as a team, the CHS boys came in 2nd!
They had their lowest score at this meet (which is a good thing in XC) since Lies has coached them.

The girls team won the meet!

It was a good day to be a Patriot!

The State Cross-Country race takes place in two weeks!  It will be the first State level competition in which any of our kids have competed!  Last year Jamison was able to travel with the team, but he was an alternate.  That was a high honor as a Freshman since they only take 12 runners on the bus when they go to state.  BUT this year he runs!  I am super excited to watch him suit up and race that day!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

XC Updates

Last week the only Dietrich racer was. . .

After watching the older kids run all season, she decided to try her hand at an elementary xc race!

 At this point in the season, Joshua knows what to do pre-race - climb trees!
 He also ran to the starting line to give his littlest, big sister a pre-race hug.
That is not something that happens when the bigger kids run!
 And since it took a while to start the race, a little gymnastics was in order.

 Eventually the 5th Grade girls were on the line, ready to race!

 It was a half mile course.

It was by far JG's favorite course of the season.  We could see almost the whole race from one spot!  He did not have to run around at all!

Brenna had fun and finished in the middle of the pack.

Afterwards she said, "Running doesn't feel so good while you are doing it - but it sure feels great when you are done!"

I totally agree!  In the moment running is tough, but the feeling of endorphins in and accomplishment post-run makes it all worthwhile!

I am curious to see if Brenna decides to run more next year or not!  Watching our kids choose their path is one of my favorite parts of parenting!

***In other cross country updates, Sierra is officially out the rest of the season.  She is bummed, but she also understands.  After talking to a PT we totally trust, she knows that to run WDA this weekend will only extend her injury.  It may be physically possible to run (poorly), but it is not worth the toll it will take on her body.  So she is shifting her focus to rehabbing her hamstring, rather than racing.  I am proud of the mature decision she made.  I also totally understand her disappointment.  At this point in her life WDA is her biggest meet ever.  Missing out on it hurts.  Yet, better things are coming.  (although waiting stinks - no matter your age!)

*** Jamison did not run last weekend.  We had a snowstorm on Friday.   Yeah, for real!  Saturday AM the snow had changed to tons of cold, cold rain.  Fortunately the race was canceled.  Also fortunately it was a small one and no one was too disappointed.  This weekend we head to Minot for WDA.  I am very excited to watch Jay and his teammates run.  The state team will be finalized, so I expect to see some great things from all the racers!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Listening . . . an Incredible Gift

It was a tough week.

Really tough.

Many, many things came to a head.

Several of our kids confided difficult problems.  Problems for which I do not have answers.

Another family issue brought pain and disappointment.

I was forced to take a good, deep look at a relationship that I have allowed to cause pain, self-doubt, and decreased self-esteem for years.  Defining the problem is the start of healing - but digging into an infected wound is not fun.

I feel God may be leading our family in a direction that would be hard.  Even considering it causes my heart to mourn. . . deeply.

People keep asking me what my plans are for after baby.  Will I go back to work?  Where will baby go?  I do not have answers.

Our smoke detector chirped three nights in a row from 3 am to 7 am.  I never sleep well when I am stressed.  The chirping added to my sleep deprivation, which gave me even less coping ability.

I have spent a lot of time researching brain development in the last 4 years, which makes me incredibly aware about what my stress level does to my baby's developing brain. So - being stressed stresses me.  It can serve to be a pretty crazy cycle . . .

AND although I do not feel internally like I am a lot more emotional during this pregnancy, externally I am.  Tears come quickly and easily.  They surface when BIG hurts are present and when small things come up.  It is quite annoying! While I do not necessarily see tears as a sign of weakness - My grandma was one of the strongest ladies I have known, but she was frequentlt close to tears, whether happy ones or sad ones! - I HATE crying.  I know some people feel cleaned out after a good cry.  I just feel empty and tired.

In the midst of all this I learned some things about friendship that I do not want to forget.

Many of the people around me had NO idea that I was struggling.  (And I am FINE with that!  Relieved even!  I actually do not want the focus of this post to be my problems, but what I learned as a result of them this week!)  Anyway, the people around me who did know I was really struggling, there were three reactions - avoidance, trying to fix me, or listening and empathizing.

Avoidance was OK with me!  I need a lot of time to sort through things.  I need space and grace to define problems, hate on myself for my part in them, pray, and listen to God speak.  That is not something I can, or want to, share with many people.  Avoiding me is fine with me.

A couple of people tried to fix me.  While I know that people in this category felt they had my very best interests at heart, their words only caused me to hate on myself more deeply.  It was like a doctor trying to set a broken arm that was too swollen to set.  They were correct, I am far from perfect and I most certainly have big faults that need fixing, but I was too deeply injured to be fixed just yet.  The timing was all wrong.  The "bone" will absolutely need to be reset, but first the swelling must decrease.

Thankfully there were a two people that truly helped me work toward healing.  They gave me a safe space to confide my deepest secrets, my most infected wounds, my fears, my insecurities, my indecision.  They did not tell me I was right or wrong. They did not ask many questions.  They did not try to define the problems.  They did not try to solve them.  They did not minimize them.   They did not exaggerate them. They just listened.  They said things like, "I bet that really hurt.  I can see how hard that could have felt.  I'm sorry.  How can I support you?  I will be praying for you."  Those words (or lack there of)  were invaluable.  They helped me to dig out some of the infection and to begin to see the size and depth of the real wound so that I can start healing.

At some point I am sure these very same friends will kindly and gently point out some ways that I did and did not contribute to the problems.  Some things I am holding onto and hating on myself for are not accurate.  Other things I should be aware of I am more than likely blind to right now.  In time, I want to come full circle.  I want the bone to be set.  I want the wound to fully heal, the scars to be small, and the "accident" to never occur again.  I want and need people to love me enough to speak into my life.

Yet for this week, I am so very grateful for those that loved me and accepted me right where I am.

Sniffles and all.

So take it from me, sometimes the most powerful, helpful, and spiritual thing you can do for a friend is listen.

It was an incredibly good lesson for me - I tend to be a fixer!  It is a lesson I hope to hide in my heart. . . forever.  

I saw this quote on a friend's FB wall this week and it sums my lesson up perfectly.

"A friend in need does not need your repair. They simply need you to create a safe place in which, even for a moment, they can exist."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Africa (By Sierra)

I woke up that morning delaying the thought of leaving Africa later that day. Even the thought of leaving the country I want to live in someday made my heart break and my breath leave, because throughout that week I had become friends with the children at the church we worked at. I had learned most of their names, and had amazing memories with almost all of them.

            I will always remember and cherish thumb wrestling with Natneal, an eleven year old that spoke better English than most of the adults in the community, playing futbol (soccer) and volleyball with Ashanafi, a seven year old that melted my heart when I first met him, and Mussie, an eight year old whose smile cause for you to forget about any knotty trick he had just pulled. I also will never forget when Marone, an eight year old that laughed about everything that came out of my mouth and a group of other girls tried desperately to braid my hair. Laughing hysterically while trying.

            During the week of the trip I had the privilege of getting to go to Hermella’s house, a well behaved eight years old whose smile always lit up the room. Her house was about the size of a full sized bed. Inside had dirt walls and a dirt floor, there was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. All that fit into their home was a twin sized bed, but instead of a mattress they had plastic bags that were filled with dirt, which her mother and her shared. Her mother was most likely around twenty two years old but looked as if she could be thirty five.

            That afternoon I put on a fake smile that made it look as if I was okay. Before the trip I honestly had not thought about having to leave those amazing kids. I didn’t know that as the bus left the church for the very last time my heart would slowly and silently break into a million pieces.

            In my room there is a line of pictures from the trip that circle my whole room. So every night I fall asleep to their pictures and every morning I wake up to them. Those pictures haunt me with different thoughts. I think to myself “Why do we as the fattest country do almost nothing to help those in some of the skinniest?” Thoughts like those bring me to think about the kids I had to leave. Is Natneal’s stomach full? Does Ashanafi think about me as much as I think about him? Is school going okay for Mussie? I know he is a hot head sometimes and that worries me for him. How are Hermella and her mother? Do they have enough money? Are they full?

            I mourn for Africa every day of my life and in a way I will continue to do so until Africa and I meet again. 

***Before we even left Africa, I made Sierra promise to write something about her trip.  I desperately wanted some record (for her and for me) of her experience.  I had nearly given up. . . and then she wrote this personal narrative for her English class. 

Her last line "I mourn for Africa every day of my life and in a way I will continue to do so until Africa and I meet again." perfectly mirrors a very specific corner of my own heart.  

Sierra tells everyone she wants to move to Ethiopia some day to be a missionary.  That plan is not always well received.  Some teachers have scoffed.  Other well meaning adults challenge her to go to med school or teachers college or. . . trying to make sure she has something "practical" to fall back on.  Our Berra-girl is brave though.  She is sure of herself and confident in her faith.  She tells me, "Mom, I know I could do all those things and maybe I will.  Maybe I will get some sort of degree so that I have more skills to offer the people of Ethiopia some day.  But isn't being a missionary the best things I could ever choose?" 

I will not be surprised if some day, Sierra, will be added to the reasons for which I long to travel to Ethiopia. I know that there are many hurdles of life and faith yet to come in our daughter's life.  If her plans and dreams evolve over the years - that is OK.  However, my deepest prayer for her is that NOTHING will ever come between her and the God she so loves and so longs to serve.