Book Review - The Nightingale

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I kicked off my 2016 reading goals with The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. By all accounts this should have been a book I loved: historical fiction, World War II, France, romance, sisterhood, solid plot, good action, and complete characters. All of my favorite elements rolled into a well written, well executive book. So why aren't I raving? Well, it's not Hannah's fault whatsoever, she wrote a fantastic novel, but for the first time ever I just wasn't in the mood for World War II. Normally WWII novels are my favorite. It's a time in history where the author doesn't have to make up anything to include all the elements of an excellent read. Horror, loss, sacrifice, love, endurance, good versus evil, it's all already there. All the author must do is convey the story with masterly woven prose. Hannah did that in The Nightingale. I just wasn't up to stomaching it.

I've been analyzing why I experienced this unexpected distaste for what is normally my favorite genre of literature. I think it's because I was reading it right almost immediately after getting hoem with Norah. Our first few weeks home were very emotional and very difficult. During my rare moments alone the last thing I needed or wanted was more emotional drama. And WWII novels are chalked full of emotions and drama!

Therefore, I will not be giving a real review on this book. By all accounts it is a very good book. The characters are believable and relatable. The historical facts seems to add up accurately. The prose is well done and the plot substantial and continually forward moving. The end wraps up a bit too neatly but my good-news-loving heart enjoyed it. Definitely worth the read...if you aren't in the middle of an emotional crisis yourself!

Some Pics from Soddo

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Drawing a crowd by the side of the road

Traditional Coffee Ceremony

A day in the life

A large fruit market

7 people in one teeny-tiny car

The large local market

We've got a following

Our Time In Soddo

Monday, January 18, 2016

Our time in Soddo was probably the hardest (for me) and the absolute best. 

We stayed on the hospital compound where our friends are missionaries. The compound is quite nice. The homes are big, modern and very comfortable. There is a playground for the kids complete with a trampoline, as well as a huge grassy field for soccer, vegetable and fruit gardens everywhere and gorgeous tropical flowers around every bend. The boys were thrilled to have friends to play with every day. We had a house to ourselves and even a serentina (house helper) to aid with dishes, cooking and daily chores. Our friends taught us to roast our own coffee beans and a local boy brought milk every morning in a used water bottle (we learned to pasteurize the milk ourselves). 

Parenting got real with Norah during our time in Soddo. Our darling girl not only had a new family to get adjusted too, in a new environment, but she came down with the chicken pox.  Since both our missionary friends have young babies who had not get gotten pox vaccines (and could get seriously ill if they caught then pox) Norah and I got quarantined to the house.

The days I thought I would be chatting with my friends, exploring the small town, taking a day drive to visit hippos, playing with my daughter in the sunshine and one the swings were instead spend nursing a very upset toddler. Without going into detail I'll just share that those were tough days. Super tough days. Emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausting.

However, I can see now why the Lord allowed Norah to get the chicken pox. It forced a quicker bonding between the two of us. Being sick makes you dependent upon another in an intimate way. Being a caregiver makes you love even when one acts unlovable (she was always loveable, of course, just not feeling well and letting us know it.) Plus, the Lord in his kindness, allow those chicken pox to wait to reveal themselves until we got to Soddo where we were comfortable, loved by friends, and where the boys were completely entertained so that I could focus on Norah.

Thankfully we did also manage to do some of those tihngs I had envisioned. Norah got well enough for a long walk through the town in the ergo. I was able to tour the hospital during one of her naps. RJ and Landon still went on their overnight camp trip thanks to a laptop and a bunch of my friends movies to help entertain Parker. And  after a few housebound days my friend Kavi insistned I sneak out with her for coffee and a donut. She reminded me that even if Norah cries in RJ's arms the entire time (which she did) he loves her and she is safe. I don't think a coffee and donut have ever tasted so good. Nor has a chat with a girlfriend been so encouraging.

Manual Mode

Sunday, January 10, 2016

One of my New Years goals this year was to learn to use our Canon camera in manual mode. I've had the camera for years and it takes gorgeous photos, but I know it can take even better ones if I get myself off of auto. I've tried reading and learning that way but it just doesn't stick. I've also tried using the "P" mode (I'm such a novice I don't even know what that stands for, haha) where one aspect of the settings is set and you manipulate the others yourself, but even then I felt I wasn't learning well. So I'm going cold turkey. Full Manual Mode (with auto-focus). I realize that the key to learning is to practice so I'm trying to be cognoscente to grab my camera more often rather than relying on my iPhone. 
While I won't make promises to publish pics weekly I am hoping to also record my process. I think the "pressure" of posting pics online will help me stick with it. 

Here's a few from my first week:


 Clearly I have a long way to go but at least not every pic I took was fuzzy! It definitely easier on things that are still -- hence less pics of our littlest member! I'm really hope I stick with this goal and see progress throughout the year.

Africa Adventure

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

While we were in Ethiopia Google wouldn't let me access my Blogger account. I tried various ways to get in but never successfully (good new for those worried about being hacked!). I was emailing posts to my sister to publish but without pictures since the files were too large. Now that I'm home I'm still hoping to post about our time there. I want to remember it as best I can. I have notes and emails to help jog my memory. I hope you'll enjoy. Meanwhile, I was so overwhelmed with emotion yesterday I just had to write a bit about the Lord's faithfulness to me. He is so kind.

Undeniable Faithfulness

Norah and I were twirling and dancing in the living room this morning and as I bent down to give here a kiss tears sprung to my eyes. She is home. She's in my arms. Dancing to music in her Mama's arms. Praise you Jesus. Thank you. Your faithfulness overwhelms me.

There were so many times this past five years that I thought this moment would never come. I felt the unquestionable leading of the Lord to stick with this adoption, but it often seemed as though our turn would never arrive. Or, worse yet, that the country would close and all our efforts and years of waiting would be lost. I often wondering why God put the desire to adopt so strongly on my heart only to keep it from fruition.

Finally, our call came. It was real. She was real. But, then those long nine months of waiting. Waiting to hold her, to smell her neck and nuzzle her cheeks. Those long agonizing months of waiting for paperwork while she grew and changed and learned in the care of another. Again, I wondered Why Lord? Why make us wait? Why keep her from us? Only to discover and learn that it was for my refining. The fact that we waited the exact length of a pregnancy is not lost on me. My family needed 9 months to prepare our hearts and our home. My boys needed those months. My marriage need them. My heart needed them.

And now she is here. Oh the JOY! God is so faithful.

Does that mean if our adoption hadn't finalized He wouldn't be faithful? Absolutely not. He is faithful always. His Spirit continually told me to hang in there, to follow Him, to trust. In feeble, faltering steps and in power and strength that could only come from Him, I did that. I followed. I trusted. I let him lead me. If you follow His leading you will see His faithfulness. For the Word of the Lord proclaims: "To the faithful you [Lord] show yourself faithful."* If we are faithful to follow He is faithful to lead. To lead us and to love us and to carry us.

"I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart;
I will sing your praises before the gods.
I bow before your hold Temple as I worship.
I praise your name for your unfailing love
and faithfulness;
for your promises are back
by all the honor of your name.
As soon as I pray, you answer me;
you encourage me by giving me your strength."
Psalm 138:1-3

*2 Samuel 22:26

Arriving in Soddo

Monday, December 14, 2015

After taking custody of Norah we spent only one more day in Addis before heading to Southern Ethiopia to visit with friends. The Yates and the Simpson families are medical missionaries from our home church and working at Soddo Christian Hospital.
Arriving in Soddo felt like a warm hug! We were welcomed by our friends and have a very comfortable house to stay in on the hospital grounds. Soddo is beautiful. Very lush and green compared to Addis. The drive was long (nearly 6 hours) and the kids did well. Norah wasn't a fan of her seat belt by the last hour but we managed to keep her entertained. She didn't have a car seat so she bounced between a middle seat with a lap belt and being belted in on my lap. Thankfully she slept quite a bit too. 
The drive was fascinating as we left the city and got into rural Ethiopia. Farms everywhere for wheat, a local grain that is popular here, and chickpeas. There are also many cattle and goat ranches. The farmers live in traditional straw and stick huts. It's harvest season and there are no tractors! Men and women cut the grain by hand while children run around herding the animals. It's straight out of National Geographic!

The hospital grounds have a park and a trampoline, and better yet our friends have young kids, so the boys are very happy. Norah continues to be fearful of RJ (but it's only been a couple days really; he is being patient) and is warming to me more and more. She continues to enjoy the boys. 
We are exhausted though. It's a lot to go from being parents of 2 children to 3 in a very foreign country with number 3 being a toddler with unique needs. We continue to pray Isaiah 40 though and the Lord gives us what we need. It felt great having friends make us dinner tonight (Thanksgiving food!) and give us a nice place to rest and recharge.
Two Cent Sparrow.
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