Saturday, March 31, 2012

Distant Memories of Africa

He remembers eating avocadoes after a rain storm. He says they fell to the ground and he would scoop up a whole bunch, he bends over and shows me how his arms were full of them, and then he and "old daddy" would sit on the ground and eat them. He loves to suck on the large avocado seed, and he starts begging for it as soon as I cut into the avocado. That is one of the good memories he has. Old daddy also used to smoke and sometimes he would throw his "smoke" into a can and they would get warm. He laughed and laughed as he told us this. We were sitting at a stop light in traffic and the person in the car next to us was smoking, and that is what triggered this memory to tell us that story. He also remembers going through garbage looking for food. He also remembers being very hungry and being cold. He remembers being deathly scared of dogs and cats (think hyenas and wild dogs) and we still have to work on meeting a "new" dog today. He is not a cat kid and I don't think he ever will be. These were all stories that we heard a over a year ago and these stories are becoming harder for him to recall. He speaks less frequently of Africa and his life there and instead he talks about his friends at school and what he wants for his fifth birthday. It's been 15 months now that he has been home with us in America.

He doesn't remember a whole lot from his life in Africa anymore. I find that to be a good thing and a bad thing. It's kind of a mixed blessing. I want him to remember where he came from, especially since Philip, Robby and I have such a deep love for Ethiopia. We do still take him to eat Ethiopian food at least once a month, and he still loves that Ethiopian spice of berbere, that burns our bellies when we eat it. Ethiopia has become a part of where we are from as well...we all felt the connection being there and long to be back. We don't want him to remember all of the loss he experienced at such an early age and some of the circustances he lived in as a child. Having no house at somepoint for him is still a memory that we believe he will never forget. He doesn't remember living in the house that old daddy now lives in, he just remembers not having one and sleeping on the ground outside. I am not sure he will ever forget what he did "not" have..... because there was a lot he did not have.  He remembers "being poor" and he sees and hurts for the homeless, when we drive down the street in our community. Sometimes we don't "see" them, but he always does. He tells me they don't have a home and they don't have much food. He relates with them. He recently reminded Philip at bedtime that he used to be very, very poor. He still has nightmares sometimes, but praise God they are becoming less and less frequent.

He clearly remembers his old daddy's voice. All I have to do is turn on the video on my computer that we have as he will run clear across the house to see him.  He remembers that "old Daddy" wears a yellow baseball hat and has a brown coat. When we get to the part in the video where he doesn't have either of these items, he demands to know why "old daddy" isn't in his yellow hat. Where did it go he says? And then a few minutes later, old daddy is wearing the hat, he smiles, comments on it, then runs off to play with his cars and legos.

Mamos's dad is in poor health and we pray for him every night. He may be "poor" but, we were recently blessed with how "rich" he has become. He is now a Christian and he loves the Lord. He is scared of being sick all alone, but he knows we will all meet again in Heaven some day and he says "I can not wait for that day to come." I often wondered, since we have been home with Mamo, if he had peace about his decison to give Mamo up for adoption. People have made comments like "well, he gave him up"...but it is not that easy to judge him and his circumstances are much more dire than it was just a "decision" to freely "give him away." It is not the same "choice" in a third world country, that others may have here in America and their situations clearly cannot be compared. In Ethiopia many are so poor and destitute and in some cases sick, that they are unable to keep their children, even thought they want to and long to do so. Many are forced with the ultimate sacrifice to send their children into an orphange or even the street, and that is hard for ANYONE in any country to make, especially those with NO options of a plan B.

In Mamo's "old daddy's" situation, he was sick and had NO OTHER family at all to care for Mamo. No wife, no other children, no sisters, no brothers, no mom... nobody. "Old Daddy" was all the family that Mamo had left, and he found himself to be very sick and in quite the predicament. Mamo had also recently lost his mother the year before. His "old daddy' didn't just "give him up"...he HAD to make a choice to PLAN for Mamo's LIFE. Philip and I saw the homeless kids ALL ALONE in the streets in Ethiopia.... his dad knew that would BE Mamo's life if he didn't make a choice to PLAN for him.  God had a plan too, and as many of you know, the day after Mamo's dad brought him to his orphanage, 12 hours away from where they lived, that Robby and I soon crossed paths into his orphanage. We were not supposed to go there that day, and I had prayed the night before for God to take adopting a child from Africa off of my heart. Five days serving in Africa had led me to believe I could not do this and that I was not capable. And the next day he placed this beautiful boy right in front of us. Robby and I loved him immediately and we knew instantly that God was telling us that this was Robby's brother he had dreamed about and the son I had been longing for. And so began our journey to bring Mamo home. My husband's heart softened for this adoption, once we told him about this sweet boy we had met, and he began the homestudy process for us while my oldest son and I were still in Africa. Mamo's dad told me he prayed the day that he left Mamo at the orphanage, that someone would come for Mamo soon. We shared with him, that the day after he left Mamo at the orphange (late July 2010), that we met Mamo the very next day and that we began to pray to bring him home to America. He sobbed and broke down when I shared this with him. God indeed, had promised him to take care of this little boy, asked him to allow him to provide and indeed he did. Neither of us knew of each other yet, but we were both praying for this child and God provided for what we both had asked him to do. Mamo's dad gives all the glory for this adoption to God and only to God!

Mamo and I were reading the story the other night of Baby Moses and how his mommy put him in a straw basket and put him into the River. And we talked about how his mommy watched the King's daughter "find him" and take him home to live with her. I expalined to him that Moses's mommy loved him so much that she was willing to save his life by allowing someone else raise her child, kind of like how "old daddy" did for him.  She simply didn't have another option and this was God's plan for Moses. She loved Moses so much that she made the only decision that she could to let him go, even though it was so painful to do so.  I couldnt help think how Mamo's dad and her have a lot in common. "Old daddy" was fearful of what would become of Mamo and he simply didn't know what to do. He didn't want him to become a child of the street or a slave. Mamo's dad praises God for sending a family to raise and love his son. We tell Mamo all the time that God has BIG plans for his life, and we can't wait to see what God has planned for him to do!

Mamo's "old daddy" is greatful that we were able to bless his son by giving him love, shelter, food and an opportunity that he was unable to provide for Mamo long term. He is thankful that Mamo has a family and will continue to have a family, since it looks like he will be in Heaven, most likely before us. We are thankful that someone, we do not know who, shared the Gospel with him, and that sharing of the Gospel "changed his heart" and that now is now a Christian. We believe Mamo's dad became a Christian shortly before he gave Mamo to the orphanage. We know he has a bible and he reads it and that he loves Jesus.  We tell Mamo that one day we will all be reunited together in Heaven. We are so greatful to the Lord for opening our eyes, our hearts and our home to the need that we had never really seen or could imagine. We are thankful for our two older children, who love Mamo to pieces and who have helped him transition to our family. Our "Big" kids have a heart and compassion for their younger brother's birth country and  they both want to go serve there (again) someday. We are so thanful how the Lord has blessed this family with a smooth, almost seamless transition, to being a family of 5. May the Lord continue to OPEN our hearts and our eyes to the need that is here in America and around the world! This little man has blessed our family so much and we couldn't imagine our lives without him!

Some may ask why share all of this information now? Well, I don't want to forget the stories and every miraculous part of this journey. We also pray that it moves the hearts of others to trust in God's plans for his children. We recognize that God may be placing adoption on your heart and if so we ask you to open your heart and to be obedient. I was at an adoption conference last weekend and I heard someone share that their call to adopt was during a time of a great family loss. Their family had multiple lossess and they were numb to all that was happening. Their child was the one that asked them to pray about adoption. Later that family answered the call many times to accept many of God's children into their home. She said that even though they had suffered a great LOSS, they realized it was easier to LIVE life and rescue those who had already LOST so much! AMEN!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To all you mommy's out there who WISH your husband would just "catch up" with your desire to adopt...Here is OUR story...

Mamo (snuggling at bedtime): Maybe daddy will get a new wife.

Mommy (completley shocked at this statement): WHY would daddy get a new wife?

Mamo: So I can marry you!

Awww... this little MELTS my heart. I think about this all the time because you see Mamo didn't have a living mommy since he was little bitty. His mom passed when he was around one. So, it was VERY natural in the beginning that he immediately attached with his daddy-- and he was still trying to figure me out. Now, it didn't take long for the bond to occurr, but I will admit I was jealous how in the beginning he ALWAYS wanted daddy. He now wants both of us, but I am keenly aware (and so is Philip) that mommy has a very special corner of his heart. I take up the part of his heart that he was missing. He doesn't remember his mommy at all, so I occupy that part of his heart where the mommy fits. I totally believe this was God's redemption for Mamo. God KNEW he NEEDED a mommy and so he sent us to find him, love him and bring him home. No doubt about it.

My plea this morning is to all of you MOMMY'S out there who have heard/felt God speak to you about opening your home to a child that doesn't have a mommy. My plea is to all of you who have spoken this to your husband, but he is not yet on board or maybe he dismissed what you said about adopting all keep PRAYING, and KEEP talking with your husband about what God is placing on your heart.

Now, you do have to both be on the same page to adopt for sure-- I don't believe God calls one member only to adoption-- he will lead you both there in his time, so maybe your journey is to pray and help your husband see adoption through YOUR heart. Talk to him about WHY you feel called-- SHOW HIM the videos have you watched that make you leave a puddle of tears on  the floor and the ones that make you want to get on a plane today and go bring all the orphans that you can find? Find a local adoption group and go check it out- just to see what it is all about.

I promise you that MOST of our husbands weren't like SURE, let's do it at a first prompting. My husband GOT there fast for sure. Our first adoption was an adoption out of tragedy, so we both got there together very quickly. BUT, the second adoption took the Holy Spirit to intervene and a very committed wife along side of him. :)

I first started talking about adoption and Philip was like sure, maybe I will think about it. But it wasn't any type of commitement. By now I am obsessed with reading adoption blogs, adoption books, meeting people that had adopted, etc... It was EVERWHERE in front of me and I didn't want to miss an article-- I was obsessed. I made Philip watch videos, read blogs and asked him to PRAY. He was still along for the ride, but he wasn't committing. I found a mission trip to Ethiopia (thr country I felft like GOD was leading us too-- he didn't feel like God was leading us to Ethiopia AT ALL). He gave me his blessing to GO, and I took my oldest son with me. He thought I would Get "Ethiopia out of my system" if I went and saw how FAR it was. He knows how I am the WORST traveler. On the 5th day I found Mamo in an orphange that we were not supposed to go to that day, and his dad had brought him there just the day before. His father told me that he PRAYED he wouldn't be there long and that he was making the best decision for Mamo. Little did he know that Robby and I would show up the very next day and we knew immediately that he was to be in our family. Now, all I could think was HOW IN THE WORLD do I get Philip to say YES to this precious boy who I already LOVE? I texted him that night from a friends phone with a simple text that said something like "Robby and I met the sweetest little 3 year old boy today, who arrived to the orphanage yesterday. He is sick but oh so sweet. He is precious. I think he is a Payne." and I went to bed. I half expected Philip to tell me non-comittaly that he would THINK about it and pray about it again. I was forming my game plan as to how I was going to try to get him to say YES once we got home-- but I knew it wasn't going to be easy, and I went to bed. The next morning my friend who's phone I used to text Philip came running in my room screaming "this Text if for you!" I read it and it said something like. "Ok, if you feel that he is a Payne then let's bring him home. What do I need to do from here to help get the paperwork started?" I could NOT believe it! Later when I asked what changed for him he said that he had a peace wash over him when he read my text and that he knew instantly that God placed this child in front of me and Robby for a reason. He later told me that he was tired of fighting God about whether we should adopt or not and just gave in to God's plan for our family and for this little boy.He said he knew that God placed this on my heart and he wasn't going to stand in the way any longer.

He surrendered folks--- not to me-- but to God's plan for our family. But I was responsible for nudging him along and not letting him forget that I couldn't just put adoption away. It was like God was stalking me with adoption stuff everywhere and I promise you, Philip was keenly aware of it because I didn't let him miss all the signs from God that he was telling me this was the plan for our family.

What I am trying to express to all of you that is IF you have heard or felt the TUG at your heart to bring an orphan into your family and your husband isn't quite there then DON'T give up on that child that is supposed to be in your family. Don't give up on the fact that your husband hasn't said YES...YET!. Don't give up on that little boy who NEEDS a mommy's love or that little girl who NEEDS a daddy's LOVE. SHOW your husband how this is on your heart and share with him what drops you to your knees. If he is saying "NO or I don't know" then he just doesn't have enough information in front of him to say YES! Help him learn more about the orphan crisis and the need for LOVING families for these children. Find out WHAT it is that STOPS him-- is it money- adoptions are expensive? Is it that he is concerned about a child that is a different color? Is it because he doesn't really know anyone who has adopted? FIND out what is standing in his way and LISTEN. Then start asking other adoptive families what their concerns were and how they overcame them. I promise you we all have been right where you are. We are a resource folks! and we love to talk about the miracle of adoption, so just ask for help!  Reach out to other adoptive families and find answers to his concerns.

One of Philip's concerns about Ethiopia was how a child would feel living in an all WHITE home. He was worried that he/she would feel so different and that no other families would look like his family. And then I found out about a local adoption group that just happend to be having a backyard fellowship at their home (we knew no one- except I had talked with the leader of our mission trip on the phone)- so I drug Philip and the kids there to this African fellowship hoping to make a friend or two.  Guess what? We got there and there were like 100 white families there with their adopted kids from Africa. Well, that issue that Philip had about our child being different went right out the window. There were kids everywhere that were brown that had white families. So, that mountain that was blocking my husbands heart was removed that day. We began meeting and talking with others that shared a heart for adoption. I remember watching Philip talk to dad after dad that day--- these dads were coming up to him and seeking him out... tell me that wasn't the Holy Spirit folks-- :). it was like watching a miracle unfold. Now even after this experience he wasn't jumping up and down and committing, but I knew we were closer to getting him on board. FIND a local adoption group and meet them for dinner WITH your husband!!! He needs to meet other dads who share the heart of adoption!

Ok, that is my soap box for the day! Praying for all of you who are praying for your spouse to catch up-- and remember, a little nudging is ok and share the journey that God is putting you on with your spouse. Send him a blog to read and ask him to watch a video with you that moves your heart.

If you feel God's desire is this  for your family , I can guarantedd that he already has a child picked out for you. Let's pray and move mountains for you to get their quickly to bring them home. But first let's get your spouse on board... so get ready to start communicating all of your desires to your husband. There is an orphan who NEEDS his mommy's love or a daddy's love and if you have felt the calling then keep plowing forward to help God help your husband say YES! I did!~

Yes, it will change your family, but more importantly you will get to see the true miracle of God's redemption.  Could it be YOUR family? I think so...I believe its true. Don't give up. Keep pursuing and praying and  step up your game in communicating to your best friend-- he WILL listen. Don't tell him about adoption but let him HEAR your heart and your desires. and begin to SHOW him.

There are so many. 163 million orphans and counting....

To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

Keep fighting you mama warriors! I am praying for all of you today and tomorrow!
Please pass this post along to someone you know who is praying for an orphan... :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

December...Christmas Eve/Day 2011...The BIG Finale

We had some excited kids on Christmas Eve in the Payne household!  We are so blessed to have the privelage to raise these 3 precious kids in our family that God created for us!

 Chrismas Eve we all watched Christmas movies, went to church, had dinner, made cookies for Santa and sprinkled out reindeer food. Cailtin and Mamo made cookies for Santa....

....and the whole gang decorated cookies for Santa! I think there was some sampling going on too.

Mamo and mommy went out to sprinkle reindeer food out for Santa's sleigh that Mamo made at school! Check out those boots! He was so excited and rushed to the window the next morning to see if the reindeer came to eat it! I remember doing this with Robby when he was little! So sweet! It seems like it was just a few years ago. Time is flying folks!

Mamo went to bed on Christmas Eve around 8 o'clock but I thought the little guy would NEVER fall asleep. He usually goes right to sleep, but at 10:30 he was still awake. He said "Mommy, it's just too hard to go to sleep!" He had been dreaming of Christmas Eve since the beginning of December. Finally it had arrived! It was so exciting to have that Christmas excitement back in the house shared by a little one! He wasn't scared of Santa but so excited that he might stop by his house! He eventually went to sleep... and Santa did come!

Christmas morning- they kids wait on the stairs! They open their stockings on the stairs, while mommy and daddy turn on the Christmas music and daddy gets mommy's coffee made!

Mamo asked Santa for a bike.... Let's see what he brought....

and Santa even brought him an ORANGE bike-- that is Mamo's favorite color! How in the world did he know that?

Robby and Caitlin got I-Pods from Santa and a warm coat!

As soon as he saw his bike,Mamo wanted us to all stand in a circle and hold hands and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. See, he is starting some of his own traditions. It was so sweet. He was very particular how this was supposed to be done- I think he had thought about it for a while.

We had breakfast and then tackled the gifts under the tree from mommy and daddy. We totally changed how we did gifts from mom and dad this year. Each child received 3 gifts total. We got them 3 gifts, just like Jesus got 3 gifts from the Wise Men.  We figured if 3 gifts were good enough for Jesus, then it was good enough for our kids! It was real sweet. (In years past, we have gone overboard and it was nice this year simplifying what went under the tree.) This new tradition will continue! 

Copper gets presents too. He opens them all by himself! He should get SOMETHING after all the reindeer dressing up and all that we put him through!

He loves his new babies!

Playing with our toys and getting dressed in our new clothes!
                                       Vanderbilt boys!

                                      Mamo's toys or Cailtin's?

We supported APPLE products this year. We have a New I-Mac and I have no idea how to work it. I am sticking to my laptop (that has to be plugged in or doesn't work). Hee Hee!

                                    Mamo and Mommy!

                         Big boy on his bike!
His little friend in the neighborhood also got a bike from Santa = hours of fun!

A perfect end to a perfect day! Daddy grilled out our dinner! No cooking for mommy! Thanks honey!

We sat down for dinner to bless our food and once again Mamo wanted us to all sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. It was so sweet. I am so glad that he got that Christmas was about Jesus's birthday and not just Santa Claus and getting lots of presents. He is such a sweet child. I am not sure I got all that at age 4. I believe Mamo's first "Do Over" Christmas was a success!

Philip's Christmas wish was for the big kids to watch his favorite Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life. It's tough getting the kids to watch the "Old" movies. Caitlin got through it, but it is now one of Robby's favorite Christmas movies. Philip was very touched by that. There were wet eyes at the end of the movie for sure!

May we all be reminded of the REAL reason for CHRISTmas! We are blessed BEYOND measure. May we all hold our loved ones tight, rejoice and BLESS many others this year!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

December...Christmas with Gina's family (Round 2 and 3)

First the Barley family came to town to visit... and that was followed by The Johnston family! The kids love it when Memaw, Papa, Papa and Grandma come to town!

Round 2... Memaw and Papa...

We all had a nice dinner and then on to PRESENTS! The kids can hardly wait!

Baseball season opens as far as "training" is concerned on 1/2/2012. The rest of us will be observing the 2nd as a New Years Holiday and Robby will be reporting to his first day of  baseball practice!  Here we go again...

Kindle! She LOVES to read!

These boots were made for walkin...These boots were a BIG deal!! He has talked about wanting REAL cowboy boots for at least 4 months! He was so exctied to get these! Look at that face! He wears them EVERYWHERE! They are very fashionable with his track pants. Reminds me of my little brothers when we were little! :)

My mom asked what we wanted for Christmas and I told her I wanted an Angel painting that she paints. She said she wasn't going to have time to make me one! Oh yeah, lookie what we got? I love it and its extra special cause she made it! (She is even starting to sell them!)

Papa got a couple of golf passes!

 I bribed Mamo to look at me (with the camera) by offering up M&M's. Looks like I should have bribed the other people in this picture too. LOL

Round 3....Papa Skip and Gradma Susan came to town...

Mamo was so surpised that everyone kept showing up with presents for him. First Christmas and we ruined him with all the loot. He could have gotten 2 total presents and he would have been thrilled. By the end of Christmas the little guy was a professional at opening presents and saying thank you!

Legos! Legos! Legos! Big boy Legos! Caitlin will spend hours working on building this for him!!!
He asked Santa for 2 things - a bike and Legos. Santa brought the bike and Papa and Grammy brought the Legos! The BIG kids got money-- which they love spending! Caitlin has already spent hers and Robby is hanging on to his a bit longer...

Me and my daddy :)

Robby got a lesson on how to change a car battery (dad brought him a new battery for his car that died!) He did pretty good but his muscles are so strong that he broke the strap that holds it in. Ha Ha. But at least he knows how now.

Merry Christmas to my family! We love you all so much!! Thanks for all that you do!!

December 2011... Christmas (Round 1 ) with Philip's familiy....

Christmas with Philip's family is always so much fun! We had his  cousins from Georgia, his aunt come in from Florida, his cousin from New York and his other cousin who is a MONK that lives in Birmingham join us for the Christmas celebration!  We all made homemade gifts this year and exchanged them dirty santa style! It was sooo much fun and so much better than playing with store bought gifts! I loved how much effort put into their gifts! Now we have a whole year to figure out what to make for next year!!

Look who came to see us! Brother Pio!
So what did my crew make? Well Mamo made homemade hot chocolate and chocolate spoons for stirring. It was a hit. He may have attached his cute soccer picture to it to, and everyone thought it was just precious. Aunt Sue opened it, but cousin Jake stole it and took it home!

I made a wreath out of those spray painted pinecones you may have seen on our last post. :) Paw Paw ended up going home with that one. (Pretty sure Grandma got it!)
Robby made homemade fudge and its all Mamo talked about after Robby made it. He wanted to win it in the dirty santa game. And he did! BIG smiles for sure!

Philip was clever and loaded a few cool movies on a flash drive. Uncle Jeremy went home with that one. Not sure it was legal, but it was in the homemade category. Ha ha.

Cailtin made a 3 layered CANDY cake that was the hit of the party with the kids.

That cake was in a lot of people's hands before it went home with Caleb-- lucky boy!

Caitlin was excited to come home with these flower pens... made by Aunt Sue

Robby left the game with Charlie Brown decoration...made by Uncle Jeremy.

Philip won this wreath for us made by his niece Kelsie...

and I left with a cool homemade puzzle made by Philip's dad.

There were so many other awesome gifts! We had bird feeeders made with coffee cups, Christmas decorations, Coasters, Magnetic dry erase boards, a bag full of cookies, night lights, wine bottles filled with white Christmas lights, airplanes, a chess pie and The Facts of Life shrinky dinks! I know I am leaving out some of the cool gifts! It was so much fun and we all cant wait to play it again next year!! and this year we have a whole year to come up with what we are making!!! So fun!

Grandma and Grandpa gave all the boys a remote controlled car before they left. Mamo's very first one! He was so excited that he put it under his tree in his room that night when he went to bed!!

Grandparents with all the boy grandkids. Cailtin and Hannah were MIA.

We had a great time as usual just hanging out and catching up with everyone!

 We can't wait to see everyone next year!

A few days later Grandpa and Grandma came back to town! They stopped by to unload their sleigh and then they were on their way back to Kentucky! (Grandma was sick... poor Grandma, so they just made a quick stop!)

Mamo found this in the Toys R Us ad and cut it out the advertisement and handed it to us. It was quite hysterical. Out of the entire 50 page ad this is what he wanted. -- Horses, a truck pulling a horse trailer and a barn!
 Oh my!

Hot Pink! Thanks Grandma!

The Payne family bleeds BLUE!

Grandma and Grandpa!
Grandpa just retired a few weeks ago and they are brushing up on their golfing skills- so they are both going to GolfPlus after Christmas!

Grandma and Grandpa... this was 10 minutes after you left. (The AFTER picture!) Our friend rejoined us and we play with this EVERYday. This is his favorite truck and he loves his horses and barn. He won't even share this truck with mommy when we play. Its been deemed his FAVORITE for sure!

Merry Christmas Grandpa and Grandma! Thank you for all that you do!