Everything about her is changing. Like the newly emerging flowers and budding trees ready to burst this spring, she is beginning to blossom into a little lady. We can see it as she searches for independence and boldly professes her ideas and opinions. It’s a miracle to watch happen right before our eyes.
Today she turns seven and marks for us all a new season, a fresh start if you will. I think it’s what I love about birthdays. It’s a day to reset, reflect, to explore and dream of what is next. Tonight we will celebrate the gift that this child is not only to our family but to all who know her. We’ll celebrate her birthplace and pray for the woman who gave her life in spite of harsh circumstances. We will embrace all the changes we see on her horizon and discuss the ways we see God working in and through her little life.
With spring sports and two of our kids in lead roles in a musical (Footloose) opening next week we have been a tad busy and frankly planning a bday bash fell off the radar. When we finally dug in she insisted all the girls she knows be invited. She is a wee bit social so you can imagine the list. We love hosting birthday parties but all those gifts? We have grown to wish birthdays could be less of a lavish affair. “Ava for your birthday what if we shared the story of the Chapa children who need sponsors in order to grow up strong and educated just like you?” I said, thinking aloud. ” We could ask friends to consider sponsoring a child from Chapa or making a donation toward new uniforms or shoes instead of gifting something to you.” Ava did not hesitate.
So this weekend when we host our two hour basement dance party birthday bash we have asked that kids (parents… thank you) do not bring a gift. Instead we are spreading the word about these 17 children of Chapa, Ethiopia who long to be part of our sponsorship program.
Click here to see their profiles:
The children of Chapa long to have someone walk alongside them. To bless them with letters, prayers and loving support. We are asking you consider giving to them in honor of Ava. Give to them in honor of your own child and the growth you see as you are watching them bloom this spring season.
Peace on the journey,
The last leg was O’Hare to Grand Rapids. She was sleeping when we boarded the tiniest of planes for the last thirty minute flight before she would meet her forever family. My sister, Shannon joined me during the second trip to Ethiopia to pick up Ava from her transitional home and spend five days waiting for the proper paperwork to allow us clearance to travel home. Shannon was already taking her place as an exceptional Aunt who would form a deep connection to her niece. Our time, the three of us in a hotel in Ethiopia was spent fighting complete sleep deprivation and frequent meltdowns and crack ups. Ava cried frequently as she was beginning to bond with us and we were struggling to feed her and understand her patterns of sleep. Someday there will be so many stories to tell about trying to find clean water for bottles and our outing when Aunt Shannon became trapped in a car with her screaming niece during heavy Ethiopian rains. Our first days with Ava and the other adoptive families in a hotel were hard but we shared so many laughs as we were beginning to nurture and protect our dear children.
We exited the plane and took our first steps onto land, in Grand Rapids, her second and forever home. She was cozily sleeping, wrapped and attached to me. The sense of victory and relief was overwhelming as we walked the hallway leading to the arrival gate where we could finally see friends and family. Miss Ava, asleep and so peaceful would land into hundreds of arms, those who would love her fiercely and deeply, grateful that she was home.
Meeting our daughter for the first time… forever etched in my mind was her smile just seconds after they placed her in our arms.
The before Ava Strobel clan. Look how young everyone looked.
One month home.
Six years has flown by and watching Ava grow has been one of our greatest treasures. She is confident, kind, nurturing, sensitive and deeply rooted to God in a way I cannot explain. Ava has surprised us on so many levels and continues to thrive fully aware and proud of her heritage but also so connected to her brothers and us as parents. Ava is a sassy singer, belting out lines and songs from every musical her brothers have been a part of. Ava is strong and witty and quickly becoming a true negotiator just like her bestie and brother, Owen. This child takes life by storm not wanting to miss a thing and almost always brave and willing to take on a new challenge. Now six years home she has mastered reading and her two wheel bike this summer and rocked out her kindergarten year filled with pride that she is becoming fluent in Spanish.
six months… priceless!
Adoption of course is bittersweet and there will forever be a hole in my heart for the woman and the family that was not able to raise her. I grieve with her and long to tell her that the precious one she could not raise is loved and thriving. While I will likely never have such an opportunity, I do know that I can raise Ava to feel empowered by women throughout the world who are forced to make extremely painful decisions every day. They are not selfish women but instead selfless women, often trapped in circumstances we may not ever understand. I want her to know that her birth mother was a strong and selfless woman who carried her for nine months and into this world. Adoption has taught me not to judge and question but to love with open eyes. Love wins. God has carried Ava and continues to work through our family to teach us ways to provide for and nurture her. Ava is a beautiful work of His powerful redeeming grace.
Peace and grace on the journey!
We took an early morning walk through the Awassa fish market and surrounding park where the monkey’s (or at least a few) are under training by a few locals. Traveling with kids is such a gift and I pray every day for the eyes of my children to be opened to our belief that most on planet earth are seeking the same things. Our mission is to accept and love, to show mercy and interest in other cultures and to invest where we can with who we can along the way. Grateful for the journey back to Ethiopia this summer. It is a splendid land filled with wonder.
Peace on the journey…