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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Emme!

Emmelyn turned 12 this week and we celebrated her birthday today at the bowling alley with her school friends. Even as I scrolled back through pictures for this blog, I am amazed at how quickly time passes and how our first, sweet, baby girl has transformed into a beautiful, mature, smart and confident middle-schooler.

Jay and I regularly reminisce about our time in Ethiopia and how glad we are that we took both of our daughters with us. Travelling with all 4 of us there - and returning with 6 - was expensive and stressful at times, but I would not change a thing in hindsight. It was so important for them to be there at the very moment we became a family of 6. It was also important for the boys to know and understand immediately that they were not only receiving a mom and dad - they were being gifted with 2 loving sisters as well.

The other reason I wanted the girls to be with us in Ethiopia is because we have always tried to teach them gratitude and thankfulness - no easy task in our country - where "things" and opportunities are abundant and accessible. After spending time in a 3rd world country - you never again take for granted what we have in this amazing country we live in.

The girls shed many tears of grief while we were in Ethiopia and they wrapped their little arms around countless orphans in an attempt to bring some measure of comfort and to demonstrate their immeasurable worth and value. Even at the orphanage with HIV+ kids, the girls never gave the disease a moment of thought as they waded in and shared their love openly.

I look back at pictures of the meeting we had with Jayden's birth mother and Emme's hands are covering her face and her shoulders are racked with sobs. I asked her later what she was crying about and she said she was putting herself in Jayden's shoes, feeling his pain and imagining saying good-bye to her mother or father forever. It tore her heart apart at that moment.

I look back at moments like that and I am thankful for the experience and thankful for my daughters' sensitive, empathetic hearts. If I am to consider some of the things I hope to teach my children, empathy would be one of the qualities at the top of my list. Gaining a first-hand, world perspective at such a young age can only have a great impact.

I keep reminding my daughters that I was 40 when I went to Africa for the first time. They were only 10 & 11 and the things they saw and experienced will leave them changed forever ... and perhaps even change the very course of their lives. Happy Birthday Emme!

Emme's school friends celebrating her birthday at the bowling alley.

Last weekend at church, Amy and Julie, gave us scarves that they had hand-knitted while we were in Ethiopia, praying for us during our trip. Not only did they make these beautiful and meaningful scarves for the boys, but they remembered our girls as well. All of the kids were very appreciative and I was especially appreciative because they knitted them at the very moments we were in Ethiopia!

A few quick photos of Wesley sorting his animal blocks. These blocks have been a favorite of his since day one. He spends hours in complete contentment sorting and organizing the blocks and matching up the pictures in pairs. He can name all of the animals and as he matches them up he counts them "one ... two ... monkeys". When Jay's aunt Mary (80+ years old) comes for a visit, he runs for the block box, climbs up on the sofa with her, and spends the next hour or two going through the blocks with her - and he has her undivided attention the entire time.


Rob and Candy said...

oh, I LOVE the blocks! Could you tell me where you bought them? I think Henry would like them

Karla said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EMME! What a lovely post! Love - K

small world said...

I love this post. It brought a tear to my eye. We took our children with us to China and Russia to bring their new siblings into our family. I wish we could have taken them to Ethiopia too, but there are just too many of us now. They saw what your children saw as well and they will never be the same. We are so blessed and they know it...Praise God. Some day it will be there turn and they WILL know how and what to do.
Love, Theresa

Julie said...

So glad they enjoyed the scarves. Hope it keeps them warm in body and heart.