And then she was One….

Sweet little lady. You are one now. How did this happen so quickly?

All of a sudden we have a little girl in our home. You’re not a baby anymore. I can see it and hear it and a part of me wants to slow down the clock and the other part wants to speed it up because I know it will only get better.

Your mannerisms are emerging and everyday you do something that wows us. We see so much of others we love in you.

When you wrinkle your nose when you laugh, I see your dad. (I also see him when you spaz out and body flop on the bed.) You inherited his face…in a wonderful way. But I hope his incredible patience and kindness grow in you too.

Every once in a while, I see a glimpse of myself in you. When we close the refrigerator door and you put your head on the ground and sob, deeply, every single time…I laugh. That is all me. Sorry.

You are quirky and strange and dance to your own beat. You love reggae, like your mama, berries, like your papa, and to be held and loved, like all of us I suppose.

During the course of a day I can see hints of your grandparents and your aunts and even your cousin and I love that you can’t escape this crazy legacy you were born into.

And every once in a while, I can see your namesake, my Nina. When you cover your mouth when you laugh, I see her.

As much as you are of us. You are your own. You are independent and feisty. You are determined and easily embarrassed. You love strangers well and they love you.

But even more than you are your own, you are His. You are His beloved and as parents, we rest in that.

“Beloved Daughter of my heart,the joy of God be in thy face, the joy to all who see thee, the circle of God around thee, angels of God shielding thee.” ~CoMMON PRAYER

 

Happy Birthday Elaine Finley Taylor

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Christmas in (H)awassa

When we moved to Awassa it was just that- “Awassa”.  But now (and by now I mean the last few years-we’re a little slow) the thing to do it change the name and/or spelling of towns and cities back to their pre-communism name.  Thus we should now be “Hawassa”.  It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks- especially when that trick is a silent “H”.  So we vacillate between Awassa and Hawassa.  But it’s the same place.  So bear with our fickleness.

Anywhoo.  Christmas in Awassa.  It was a first.  Not my first in Ethiopia.  I think it was my 14th?  Maybe?  Something like that.  My 17th or 18th in Africa.  But my 1st in Awassa and my 2nd this far away from family.

We really celebrated on Christmas Eve.  In the morning, Ben got a call that we had packages to pick up from the post office.  A Christmas Eve miracle.  And one of the reasons it’s nice that Ethiopians celebrate on the 7th of January and not on the 25th of December- the post office was open!  So Ben went and picked them up and put them under the tree.  Two USPS red, white, and blue boxes nestled under the tree.  It was beautiful.  Really, it was.  My mom and dad had also brought us Christmas gifts when they visited so they were under the tree too.  We felt so incredibly loved…and remembered.  It was perfect.

For Christmas Eve dinner we went over to celebrate with our friends at the Helimission compound.  We had an American/ Swiss/ German/ Canadian feast.  It was delicious.

And there were plenty of kids to entertain and love on Elaine.

Can you tell her dad dressed her?  Those shoes….

We spent the afternoon relaxing with friends and the kids even got to go on a donkey ride.

The big kids got a ride too

Christmas Eve night we read Twas the Night Before Christmas to Elaine and put her to bed while we watched White Christmas (my all-time fave) and sipped on apple cider (ok, maybe it was really hot apple juice, but we pretend).

Christmas day was really low key.  We spent the morning making and eating a delicious breakfast, reading the Christmas story and opening our gifts.  It was exciting and relaxing and fun and anticlimactic all at the same time.

In the afternoon we went to a Christmas service with our fellowship group.  Elaine got all dressed up in her beautiful Christmas dress that a friend made for her.

We also got to skype with our families.  I don’t know if this technology makes it easier or harder to be so far away.  99% of the time it makes it easier, but seeing everyone together, actually touching each other- not just looking at each other through a computer screen, with a big, glowy tree in the background and blocks of cheddar cheese and turkey sandwiches in hand did make us incredibly homesick.  (Ok, they didn’t actually have turkey sandwiches and blocks of cheddar cheese- that would have just been mean.  but you get the point?)

Overall it was a great Christmas…just the three of us.  Celebrating the birth of a King that came into the world in a place that probably looked pretty similar to what most of Ethiopia looks like today.  Animals everywhere, dirt, dust, inadequate healthcare, oppression, no running water (if you’ve delivered a baby, the no running water thing is especially painful to think about).  Even I left this place to have my baby.  And as wonderful as I think Elaine is- she is no King of Kings.  And God sent His son here…for us.  The undeserving.  The depth and pain of that sacrifice was especially evident to me this year.

It’s now January 4th and Christmas is long over and I’m just now getting around to posting this.  Ethiopian Christmas is this weekend- so if you think about it, I’m actually ahead of the game.  We’re looking forward to spending the weekend with friends and celebrating Christmas all over again…this time with a lot less cookies and a lot more injera ba wat.

Merry Christmas from the Taylors!

Nani and Papa Joe come to town!

One of the perks of being a 3rd generation (me) and 4th generation (Elaine) Harding in Ethiopia is that we get to see lots of family over here.  Just this past month there were 5 Hardings on this side.  Ethiopia has a way of drawing them back- and we like it!

This Thanksgiving we got to share it with Nani and Papa Joe, my mom and dad.  Elaine was pretty pumped about it.

Obviously…

 

Ben was even in town for their visit and we got lots of good family time in.  Ben and I even went out on a date thanks to some pretty stellar babysitters.  We were only gone an hour.  There just isn’t that much to do for date night in small town Ethiopia.  But a meal without distractions was priceless.

It was so nice having them here.  I don’t think Elaine took one nap lying down.  She was constantly snoozing on Papa Joe’s shoulder.  They are two peas in a pod.

We were sad to see them go.  Ben and my parents headed out the weekend after Thanksgiving leaving Elaine and I to fend for ourselves.  It was quite an adjustment.  But we’re back in the swing of things and already looking forward to their next visit!

We miss you!!

Skype Love

This makes me so happy and so sad all in the same breath.

I love, love, love Skype and how it makes the thousands of miles between us seem not so far.  And I love seeing Elaine smile at her Aunt Kristen and little David and their voices.  But I do not love not being there in person.

Sometimes I feel especially far away.  Tonight is one of those nights.

Thank you Jesus for Skype.

blessed

The weekend before we left for Ethiopia was a very special one.  That Sunday, family came together to dedicate Elaine’s life to the Lord.  We gathered together outside on a gorgeous North Carolina fall day and Elaine’s great-grandfather lead a beautiful ceremony of blessing on her life.

(thanks to Uncle Bill for most of these great photos!)

Elaine and her Pawpaw

It was such a special time for Ben and me.  Not only did we get to say our goodbyes but we felt so incredibly loved and blanketed in prayer.  Leaving was a lot harder this time- with a baby in tow, but the reminder that we were not going alone was just what we needed.  We are so excited to watch Elaine grow and come to know and experience Jesus.  She is already so blessed by the grandparents, great grands, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and countless others that I know will stand by her and speak truth and love into her life.  Knowing that is such a gift to me at a mom.

  Sisters, husbands, and babes

Oh man I miss these two!

Especially this little nugget (photo courtesy of the talented niels toft)

Girl Cousins, Girl Cousins, Yay Perdinky

The girl cousin babies.  All born within 7 1/2 weeks of each other

Family photo (courtesy of cousin niels)

Of course it would not be complete without cake

Little Ellie passed out after her big day

One of my mom’s friends made Elaine’s beautiful blessing gown.  It was made out of the lace from my mom’s wedding dress and the slip has Elaine’s name, birthdate, and the scripture we chose for her beautifully stitched on to them.  It is an incredible keepsake that we will certainly be passed down for generations to come.  And I think she looked pretty cute, if not pioneer-esque in the outfit too:)

 Doesn’t she look ready for the oregon trail?  love her

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Around the river bend…

I’ve never been one of those people that can remember song lyrics.  I can listen to a song a hundred times but if I want to sing it on my own I draw a blank.  It’s been a challenge as I try to think of songs to sing to Elaine while we’re rocking.  She gets a lovely combination of bits of old hymns mixed with the the Black Eyed Peas and songs from the movie My Best Friends Wedding.  Poor thing.  I also made the discovery, as I scoured my brain for any lyrics that may be hiding, that I also know all the words to the Pocahontas soundtrack.  Thanks to a summer spent driving from Wisconsin to North Carolina and everywhere in between with 1 CD (or was it tapes back then?) my sister and I could belt out “Colors of the Wind”  and “Just Around the River bend” with the best of them.

This morning as I was changing Elaine and humming about the aforementioned river bend, I was thinking about what was ahead for us…just around our river bend.  Cheesy, i know, but I have a new baby- I’m sleep deprived (OK, that’s a lie, she sleeps a lot), Disney just gets me thinking.  Truth be told, I woke up with a pit in my stomach.  Every time I think about the fact that in a week and a half we’ll be in Ethiopia I get this overwhelming flood of emotion.  On one hand I am excited to go “home”, be on our own, see our friends, start our routine, live real life.  But on the other hand I am a basket case.  My mind fills with doubts and fears that lay heavy on my heart. What if Elaine gets sick?  What will I do when Ben is away?  What if I’m lonely?  What if we’re in a car accident?  What if I’m not packing what we need?  What if, what if, what if…  But those doubts aren’t from God.  Those fears are from the parts of my heart where I don’t let him in.  I can say that I believe he goes before me and will be with me, but sometimes I’m not sure that I really do.  Or maybe I believe it, but it doesn’t look the way I want it to look.  God being with us does not always mean health and safety and comfy beds and warm meals.  It does not mean we will be comfortable and happy- as much as I would like it to.  But we are going where He has called us.  And I believe that I will find JOY there.  Maybe not happiness all of the time, but His JOY.  And I get excited to see what He has waiting.  Because, as we have seen over and over in our lives, His surprises are never a letdown.  Exhibit A, our little Elaine.

So we’re filling these last days stateside with all the things we love.  And that includes as much time as possible with our little nephew.  Oh man, I’m going to miss him!  And so will Elaine it appears.

Cousin Love

On our way back from the beach we got a call from my sister telling us that she was in labor and in route to the hospital!  So instead of heading back to Charlotte, we made a B-line for Winston-Salem.  We made it just in time to welcome David Allen Freeman into the world!

He is one beautiful boy.

Elaine is very excited about her little cousin, 7 1/2 weeks her junior…

…She showed her excitement by sleeping through the whole visit.

Little David looks tiny next to our little monster

Proud Papa Joe

I love knowing that they will be in each others lives for life.  Kris and I have incredible cousins and it’s fun knowing that we’re starting a new batch of them.  Our cousin, Erin, had the cutest little Max smack dab between Elaine and David.  Elaine will have two strapping boys to look out for her down the road.

Knowing that in 2 weeks we’ll be thousands of miles away from them makes my heart hurt.  What an incredible blessing to be here for all these births (nice timing ladies).

 Now, back to packing…how can someone so small need SO MUCH STUFF!