The Words That Changed His Life

As I write this Tim is flying over the ocean on his way to pick up Sensi. The girls and I are home waiting. I’ve been feeling some anxiety off and on today and find myself wishing for distraction, but no matter what task or hobby I put myself to, my thoughts continually turn inward where I am acutely aware of my shaky instability.

I miss my husband.

I can’t even focus on writing so perhaps today is a good day to post something written by someone else. Following is a copy of the first description we received of Sensi when a friend (Thank you, Tonya Wike) sent us his profile about a year and a half ago. This description is written by a young woman who interned at Sensi’s orphan care center. If we had received only facts and medical records about Sensi I can’t say for sure that Tim would be flying right now. But thanks to this young woman and the time she took to advocate for Sensi, we are about to welcome home our son.

Always remember that words have power. Words change lives.

I have copied and pasted exactly what we received so Sensi’s name appears as “Samuel” which is how we first knew him.  Also the name of his orphanage is omitted.

Written by an intern at Samuel’s orphanage:
I met Samuel on the second day that I volunteered at ********. He was sitting alone in the staircase of the main building after wandering away from a few of the other kids who were playing outside. He looked at me and I asked his name and he didn’t respond. Later on it was explained to me that he “won’t talk”.
Samuel takes a while to warm up, he is guarded but once he decides you are safe- you are in. The icebreaker was taking funny pictures on my phone, instant hit. He tagged along the rest of the time I was there. I was told that they did not know why he didn’t talk he just didn’t want to. He is a smart boy, he communicates his wants and needs through pointing, gesturing, and in that way is easy to understand. When I asked “Where is green?” he pointed at a tree. I wish I had spent more time with him as he started to come more and more out of his shell. I had heard that lately he had been trying to talk- saying/whispering wuha (Amharic for water) to another volunteer a few weeks prior so one of the days when he was supposed to be napping I was able to take him from his crib- we played and he repeated sounds “ssss” “ttt” “uhh” and then when I said wuha he repeated it in a low breathy voice.
He is very laid back and very well behaved. He is in “preschool” at ****- which is 6 or so other kids who are too young for KG or haven’t tested in yet and an older boy with handicaps, taught by whatever volunteers are there.
Samuel came into **** within six months of me being there from Gambella- Some of the volunteers who I stayed with were there when he came. I got to hear more about his story- for the first few weeks of being at ***** Samuel sat in a corner. He didn’t talk, didn’t cry, didn’t play, didn’t want to eat, and never smiled. Slowly he came a bit out of his shell. When I was there in March of 2014, he would play, and smile, eat every bit of his food, and would cry when mistreated or misunderstood.
He, along with most of the other kids his age, would periodically have accidents and wet themselves. Samuel is very scared of getting in trouble and would freeze when the nuns would come.
Samuel has one of the best smiles. His smile takes over his whole face. His teeth are almost all decayed though. It makes eating certain things hard and the nannies would sometimes make him special food and feed him.
Physically- Samuel seemed about average with the other four and five year olds. He did have a raspy cough when we were there.
He likes to look at book after book, and especially liked looking at a book with different textures to feel. He also seemed to love to color. As far as I know, he does not know how to write yet.
Samuel does not get much attention at ***** to have the chance to learn new things. He is low maintenance and therefore forgotten about and pushed aside.
Samuel likes to help and would get or bring back anything I needed or things that the other kids took from me. He is sweet and lovable and it took all of a day to win me over completely.
Samuel likes being held and one on one attention-although he doesn’t force it. He was content sitting on my lap, stroking my face, pointing out freckles, and playing with my necklace. He would follow me and gently hold my hand and not just be jumping on me like the other kids. From what I saw he is very obedient and respectful.
He is easily overpowered by the other, louder, kids in the group. He doesn’t demand attention and is content to just be sitting beside you.
Samuel does show fear often; he gets scared easily and I think if he felt safe you would get to see even more of his personality.
I love this little boy so much and have been praying that he finds the right family every day. He is an amazing little boy.
Samuel is very sweet and I believe he would thrive in a family environment, where he can feel safe and get the care and attention he wants and needs. He needs someone to believe in him, to teach him. He needs a mommy and daddy.

I am so thankful that God answered this intern’s prayers and chose us to be Sensi’s mommy and daddy. Reading this in the waiting reminds me of how sure we are that God put us together, and He will continue His work of uniting us when Sensi finally comes home. (One Week!!!)


Ten Memories

I’ve started this post about five times now. Just can’t get it right.I want to write about my beautiful mother because, as of yesterday, she’s been gone for three years. How could I write about anything else?

But I can’t make the words say what they should.

There’s just too much. Too much Mom….and (let’s face it) not nearly enough.

I can’t write what I thought I would. I thought I’d write something sad about our last year together and how I learned to be still as I sat next to her on the couch watching the light fade. I thought I’d write something epic and beautiful. I thought yesterday I would feel sad, but I didn’t. It was a perfect day and I was full of life. And that’s ok. My mom was full of life too. And I guess now she’s…fuller. Yesterday, as I sat by her grave, I just kept thinking about how I’ll see her again. …She must be so happy right now.  So, instead of trying to force something onto the page, I decided to write something I knew.

Ten Memories of Mom (From the Good Years):

  1. She says again and again, “I love you so much I can’t stand it!”
  2. I see her monster-chasing us around the house and scaring us so bad we have no where to run but back into her waiting arms.
  3. She is standing at the stove making dinner. I am sitting on the kitchen counter running lines with her for an upcoming play.
  4. She points at a bird and says, “Look! The first robin! Spring is coming.”
  5. She is lounging in a lawn chair in the sun while we play in a wading pool.
  6. It is night. She sits on the floor by my bed singing hymns until I fall asleep.
  7. Sunday morning. I sit next to her in church and twist the ring on her finger to make the diamond catch the light.
  8. She sits next to me on the floor and holds me while I cry about a boy.
  9. She sits on the front step waiting for me to walk home from school.
  10. Her smile. Her laugh. Her arms. Her everything. Everything.

These memories are not phenomenal. She was not a super-mom. She was there. And she loved us. And that’s all I have to say tonight.

Just Get Out of the Boat

A few days ago I read the story of Peter walking out to Jesus on the water.

“Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. ‘A ghost!’ they said, crying out in terror. But Jesus was quick to comfort them. ‘Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.’ Peter, suddenly bold, said, ‘Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come ahead.’ Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’ Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, ‘Faint-heart, what got into you?’ The two of them climbed into the boat and the wind died down.”                                                           (Mat 14:24-32 The Message)

All the disciples were scared when they saw Jesus walking on the stormy water. That seems pretty normal. Being afraid is not a bad thing. We all feel afraid in life, and that’s OK.

Peter must have been so scared as he contemplated climbing out of that boat, but he wanted to be where Jesus was. He wanted to do what Jesus did. And I have to think that there must have been one crazy moment where his trust outweighed his fear and he stretched his leg over the side of the boat and rested his foot on the choppy waves.

So then there’s Peter, doing this great, brave thing and all of a sudden it’s like he realizes what he’s gotten himself into. I can almost hear him thinking, “Oh man. What am I doing?!” He gets frightened all over again, starts to sink, and calls out to Jesus.

I think this is my favorite part. “Jesus didn’t hesitate”. Jesus wasn’t upset at Peter for being afraid. He didn’t take the time to give him a, “Well, this is what I figured you do” kind of look. He doesn’t pause to drive some kind of message home. He simply reaches down, pulls Peter up, and leads him back to a place where Peter feels safe.

I think Jesus was pleased with Peter for getting out of the boat. Period.

I’m learning that being afraid is OK. (In the healthy, non anxiety-driven-panic-attack sort of way.) God uses frightened people all the time: Moses, Gideon, Mary…Me.

I was so afraid to say “yes” to adopting Sensi, an older child with special needs who doesn’t speak, may never speak, may never lead a typical life. But then I had one of those moments, like Peter, that one crazy moment where my trust in God outweighed my greatest doubts and fears, and I whispered in the starlight on more than one thoughtful evening, “I want what You want”.

And I stepped out of the boat.

God knows I’ve had my sinking moments since then. Even now, in the waiting in between, I am afraid. I’m afraid to be Sensi’s mom. I’m afraid I’ll fail him completely. I’m afraid my marriage will suffer. I’m afraid I’ll lose Claire and Margot. I’m afraid I’ll feel lonely and trapped day after day with a child who can not communicate. I’m afraid I’ll wish we’d never said “yes”.

But always, ALWAYS, just as I feel the waves of fear pulling me under, crashing over me, I feel my Savior grasp my hand, pull me back to the light, and say, “I will never leave you or forsake you”. I hear Him say, “Faint-heart, why would I bring you this far only to leave you now?”

So, will I fail? Will these waves come crashing down upon me? Maybe. But at least I got out of the boat. And Jesus is holding my hand.

…and back again.

The Sprankles have landed!

Actually we landed yesterday at 11:30am. Bek and Jeremy picked us up at the airport and were thoughtful enough to bring bananas…and Pop Tarts! We spent a couple of hours at their apartment relaxing, playing outside and eating more of their food.  After traveling for more than 24 hours it was lovely to be…not traveling.

Eventually we forced ourselves back into our car and drove the last leg of the journey. Both girls fell asleep in the car (in VERY uncomfortable looking positions). We finally rolled into our driveway at about 6:30 last night.

We felt so loved when we walked into our kitchen and found notes of welcome, groceries, a meal in the fridge (thanks, Nicole!!) plus a Papa John’s gift card and more food (thanks, Dad and Cindy!) We quickly unpacked (read: threw everything down in the basement to be washed) then gorged ourselves on delicious chicken tortilla soup. I haven’t eaten that well for a week!

We tried to stay awake by watching some Phineas and Ferb after dinner but by the end of the first episode we were all asleep on the couch! Somebody (Tim?) must have turned it off and we dragged ourselves into our beds at 9:00.

This morning we are all feeling much better and reveling in all the little things one really appreciates after visiting a developing country. “We can drink water right out of the tap!” “I can fry my egg in BUTTER!” “Our house is so big and comfortable!”

Yes, it is lovely to be back in the U.S.A. We have so much to be thankful for.

So, now we wait. Hopefully in the next two or three weeks we’ll be contacted by our agency informing us that Sensi is ready to come home. Tim will make the long trip again and bring him home. God has been so good to us and so faithful in carrying us this far. I know He will be with us in the future as we begin the new journey of figuring out how to be a family.  DSCF0410.JPG


Addis Ababa: Day Five

This morning we went to the Ethiopian court, sat before the judge and officially adopted Sensi. He is now legally our son. Yeah, I got a little choked up.

We were told the process could take hours (mostly spent in the waiting room) but we were in and out of the building in about 15 minutes.

We wanted to go to a shopping compound that employs struggling women (poverty, abuse, HIV, etc) by teaching them a craft and then selling the wares in a store, but found out when we got there that they are closed for inventory today. We were disappointed but went instead to the Addis Ababa University. They have a beautiful campus that we strolled around and a museum. We walked through the museum but half of the exhibits were in the dark as the city was without power for a while today.

We went back to the mall we visited yesterday and had lunch at a place called “Chicken Hut” which is kind of a combination of Chik-Fil-A, Pizza Hut and Steak n Shake. There was a group of school children there that kept smiling and waving at us and asking our names. There are very few white people in this city so the Sprankles really stand out.

We’re back at the hotel now resting and waiting for our 10:30pm flight home. It’s gonna be a long night and I’m sure we’ll be exhausted when we get home tomorrow but this has been a good trip.

I’m so glad the girls came with us. We’ve had a lot of good family time. Good exposure to the culture. Most of all we’ve had good initial bonding with this little boy who will very soon be in our family forever.

Thank you for all of your prayers over this week. Please continue praying for us as we travel home and prepare for Sensi’s arrival.

Addis Ababa: Day Four

Praise the Lord, our suitcase has been found! This morning there was still no word but as soon as we returned from our day out our very kind hotel manager ran up to us to tell us the airport called to say our bag is still in Toronto. Unfortunately we’re not traveling home via Toronto but we’ll figure something out. I’m just so glad it’s been found! Tim can bring the gifts on his next trip. Thanks for prayers.

So, today. We had breakfast at the hotel. There’s a cook who makes omelettes on request so I’ve been enjoying those the past few days. Plus the AWESOME coffee! (If you forget to bring your saucer up with your cup for a refill they won’t let you carry it back to your table. They carry it for you on a tray. They have high respect for coffee.)

We got to the orphanage a little late today cause Tim went out to the airport after breakfast to check on the bag. A nanny came out of the school and said, “oh Sensi had been waiting for you! He’s been looking this way and that way!” She went back in the school and brought Sensi out. Tim and Claire say they saw him smile a little when he saw us.

We all went up to the rec room. We started with books again. It could be from lack of exposure to other choices but this kid seems to really like Dr Seuss! Fine by me.

After reading I found a piece of paper and traced Claire and Margot’s hands on it. (I had planned on doing painted handprints on canvas but the supplies were in the lost bag. Side note: thanks to Joy Andrews for the idea and supplies!) Sensi was very interested when I was doing this. Then I turned to him and said, “OK, Sensi, your turn. Come here.” And do you know what? He got right off that couch and put his little hand on that paper! No persuading. No cajoling. I traced his hand and held up the paper with my three babies’ handprints on it. Bam!

We spent the rest of the time watching birds and traffic from the breezy hallway windows. Claire and Margot took turns standing next to him touching him on the shoulder or with a hand on his back. We sat on the couch a while longer when it was time to go. I explained to Sensi that we had to go away for a few weeks but that Daddy was coming back for him as soon as he could. We prayed over him and held him and kissed him.

We walked him downstairs to the room he shares with about ten or twelve other kids. We taped a page of pictures of us, our house and his bedroom on the wall above his bunk so he can remember us and hopefully think about us. Then we hugged him and walked away. On the way out we passed a window that looks into his room and he was watching for us. He even raised his hand on his own and had the slightest little suggestion of a wave as I blew him kisses. My heart is scrunching as I write this and a tear is sliding down my cheek. I’m amazed at how quickly God can fill a mother’s heart with love. I loved Claire and Margot the minute I met them. Why should it be any different with Sensi. And just as it has for my girls, my love for Sensi will grow as I learn him. More and more every day. Thank you, God.

Well, the rest of the afternoon we spent wandering around a small kind of mall that seemed mostly made up of a large arcade, a movie theatre and three shops. The girls got cotton candy and played some games. (There was this crazy version of air hockey that released like twenty pucks at a time.) We bought some coffee beans at a shop on the way back to the hotel.

Now we’re relaxing for a bit. Tonight for dinner we’re going to a traditional restaurant with Ethiopian dancing. We’ve been told they may try to pull us on stage… Fingers crossed.

Last thing. I asked people to pray for us in our time with Sensi that God would be right there with us knitting us together. It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized that the very first person we met when we walked through the orphanage gate was a young man volunteering for a few weeks. His name was Emmanuel. What a wonderful way for God to remind us that, yes, He is with us.

Addis Ababa: Day Three

Must start with a prayer request: our lost suitcase still hasn’t turned up. Of the three possibilities we’ve conjured up (1 it’s still in Chicago, 2 someone stole it, 3 it’s still coming) we’re hoping for number 3. There is a flight coming in from Canada tomorrow morning (or a little after midnight tonight EST). Please join us in praying that our suitcase will be on that flight. The suitcase contains all of our gifts for Sensi and the orphanage, half our family’s dvd collection, Tim’s laptop, and Claire and Margot’s favorite stuffed animals (Doggy and Froggy), not to mention more of our food supply (we’ve begun rationing granola bars). Please pray.

Today has been a good day. Sensi was a little more open to us today. He made some eye contact. We read more books, and did a little coloring (well, the girls and I colored and he laid on the couch with his face buried, but he was near us). Some highlights: Tim was sitting next to Sensi on the couch. Sensi had his head buried. Tim picked up a map from the table and started talking about different places on it. Sensi kept turning his head to try and see and eventually Sat up to look at the mall with Tim. Then we found a fairly large praying mantis in the room we were in. We all gathered around it on the floor and were very excited. Sensi just couldn’t help himself. He lifted his head up to see and finally got up off the couch and came over to where we were all looking. From there he sat with Tim at the window and we released the insect. It stuck around on the sill so we watched it awhile longer. He and the girls watched it together. Last of all, right before we left we found a pop-up book and read to him, but this time he turned the pages. This was a big deal.

We had some lunch then went to an amazing place called Sabahar. It’s an enclosed compound within the city that produces handmade linens from silk and cotton. The entire process is completed on the compound including raising the caterpillars that produce the silk. Everything is hand spun on spinning wheels (just like from Sleeping Beauty) anddyed using flowers and even coffee. The purpose of Sabahar and the reason they use such “inefficient” methods is to produce more jobs and keep more money in Ethiopia rather than outsourcing to other countries. It’s a beautiful place with a beautiful purpose. (And now I own a beautiful tablecloth!)

We made it back to the hotel hot and exhausted. (Every trip in the car is an event initself.) The girls took a cool bath and we are all feeling refreshed.

Thanks again for praying. Until tomorrow…

Addis Ababa: Day Two

We all slept very well last night. Trevor Deck recommended we take melatonin if we woke up to early and it worked! That or we were so exhausted from yesterday that our bodies could have slept forever! Eventually we all got up and ready and went to breakfast at the hotel restaurant. They had a long row of those shiny silver food warmers with the roll back lids. I opened the first one, some kind of beef and mushroom casserole… Second lid, cooked broccoli. Third lid, spaghetti (I kid you not!). Finally under the last lid I found a pile of hard boiled eggs. Bingo! So I had eggs and coffee which is really pretty good considering that their coffee is the best I’ve ever had! It’s incredible and always served in these perfect tiny cups.

But enough about breakfast. Our driver picked us up at 9:30 to take us to the orphanage to meet Sensi. I didn’t feel excited or nervous on the drive. I actually felt… nothing, but I also felt OK about that.

When we arrived at the orphanage we met a few workers and some of the kids. A nanny went inside and came out leading Sensi by the hand. And there he was.

He took my hand right away but wouldn’t look at any of us. We talked wth the nannies awhile about him. Everyone says “cobez!”about him, “good boy!”

They say he loves to be read to (check!) So we spent some time reading on a bench in the play yard. He sat right down on my lap and we read Fox in Socks.

Later he held both my and Tim’s hands and led us all upstairs to a room with couches and puzzles and games. (Everything is brokendown at the facility but they make up for it in love. All the nannies and volunteers are always smiling and hugging the kids.) We spent the next hour and a half alone with Sensi. We took turns talking to him, reading to him and trying to get him to do puzzles with us. He sat quietly on the couch, sometimes holding one of our hands out leaning on us. The girls were very sweet with him and showed him pictures on my phone. “This is your dog, Zeb. This is your cousin, Jojo. This is snow. This is your house.” I can’t imagine how overwhelmed and frightened he must feel but Tim and I both told him that he will be safe with us and we will take such good care of him. (Good news: they use a lot of English at the orphanage and we were told he probably understands English better than Amharic.)

When we got up to go Sensi turned his body into me almost like he didn’t want us to go (wishful thinking?) And when we were saying goodbye to the nannies I caught him stealing glances at all of us.

We all came away feeling very encouraged. He is a sweet, shy boy and I feel God has chosen us for each other.

We left and got lunch at a very nice place where we reinforced the fact that the Sprankles do not eat at fancy restaurants. We had some good laughs.

Then we went to this big market to do some shopping, reinforcing the fact that the Sprankles are not great shoppers, especially when we have to barter. It’s very difficult to be anywhere in public because everyone comes up to you for money or to sell you something and you feel guilty and awkward and annoyed and then guilty again. It is a very poor city in most places. The poverty is overwhelming as is the mass of population.

We returned to the hotel late afternoon and plan to spend the rest of the day here. The girls are wearing their new traditional Ethiopian dresses we bought them today. I think they’re a lot cooler now. Or room is not air-conditioned and it’s pretty hot here.

Enough for now. Again, thank you for all of your prayers. God hears you.

Addis Ababa:Day One

We arrived at our hotel at 8:30am (Ethiopia time). So glad they let us check in early. We’d all been awake and traveling for over twenty hours. (Props to sister, Bekah, for driving us to the airport at four in the morning.)

We unpacked a few things, happy to realize that some of our toiletries we thought were in our lost bag we do actually have. No gifts for Sensi though and no makeup for Liz (as if I need it!)… (I do actually, because without it my pale skin and short eyelashes make me look ill)…

Anyway, allowed ourselves a two hour nap which was PAINFUL to wake up from. Both girls cried. We walked down the street to buy some bottled water. A local man spat on Tim then pretended to be sorry and wipe it away while grabbing for Tim’s cell phone. (Other than that everyone’s been pretty friendly.)

Our hired driver, Joseph, took us around the city and to the to of a mountain. The girls especially loved seeing all the goats, sheep, chickens and donkeys walking through the streets. The mountain views were beautiful. Lots of tall eucalyptus trees.

At the top of the mountain we took a guided tour of an old Ethiopian Orthodox Church. All of the paintings were done with natural pigments from flowers, etc. We all really liked the painting of the beheading of John the Baptist with blood and guts coming out of his neck… Yeesh.

Now we’re back in our hotel, in for the night. Working on drawing and coloring with our 8 th floor window wide open listening to a thunderstorm coming down from the mountain, a cool breeze blowing in. Not bad.

Our schedule has changed a little. We actually get to meet Sensi tomorrow at 10:00. Please pray for a positive first meeting. We are all excited and a little nervous.

Thanks for all your prayers and support. We are having good family time.

This Doesn’t Feel Like Easter… And that’s OK.

This will be short and sweet… WE MADE IT!!!! God is good. He heard all your prayers and delivered us to Ethiopia. And on the plane… I felt… Totally fine!!! (OK I got a little anxious the very last hour of the trip and decided to take a Xanax and that was probably good as we still had about two hours to get out of the Addis Ababa airport. And they lost our bag that had gifts for Sensi and activities for us to do with him. So now you can pray that that will turn up. But seriously, everything went very well. The girls did great. Since arriving they have both declared that they love Ethiopia and Claire wishes we were staying two weeks. (I’m so glad they take after Tim when it comes to international travel.)

Well, I’m going to lay down and close my eyes for a bit. Happy Easter everyone!!