It’s no secret I’m a big reader. I feel like it’s the chance my soul needs for nourishing…and my brain desires in not becoming perpetually consumed with changing diapers, doing laundry, and menu planning.

It continues to get me outside my little world of “mommydom” and allows me to remember when I could weave words like innocuous and soliloquy through conversations, without need of a thesaurus.

My brain does not like to be idle…and neither do I.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll already have seen me reading some of these…but with the past few months of ravenously pouring over pages…I thought I’d share some of my favorites!

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I don’t want you to think that I consider all books I take the time to read, to be incredible and life changing.

There are about six more books I have read within the past few months that I’m not including in this list because in my opinion, they don’t deserve to be. They were fine, had good portions, but I didn’t come away feeling changed. In these following books however, I most certainly did.

non fiction

a house in the sky

I just finished this heart-wrenching and beautifully written book yesterday. I so strongly recommend it even though I sobbed through the whole thing {and I am NOT a crier}.

A House in the Sky tells the true story of Amanda’s life growing up poor in a small town in Alberta, traveling the world, and ultimately being kidnapped in Somalia by Muslim extremists. A captive held for 460 days, she recounts the terror and abuse, her daring escape, and pretending to convert to Islam as a survival tactic.

What gripped me the most was how she got herself through without losing all hope. She’d look for something…one little thing, each day that was good. Things like, “I am thankful that today Jamal set my food down on the floor instead of throwing it at me…I am happy that I heard a few seconds of the boys laughing and horsing around in the hallway today because it reminded me, if only for a minute, that somewhere inside each of them is a teenager who wants to be carefree.

In her mind, she’d run through all the different things she had to be thankful for and pray for every person she could think of. Those at home in Canada, others who she’d met in her travels, or had tried to hard to help her escape. She’d also picture all the places she had visited, imagining a house in the sky away from all the pain of torture, rape, and misery.

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Of Beetles & Angels

Of Beetles & Angels {which I still need to return to my sweet friend who loaned it to me} is a remarkable memoir about a boy whose family was able to escape the dangers of northern Ethiopia and fled to a refugee camp in Sudan, where they were finally granted permission to move to the US.

Suddenly dropped into a affluent suburb of Chicago at the age of seven, Mawi recalls living on welfare as a child, struggling to adjust to American life, all the while being challenged by prejudice, language barriers, and financial disadvantages.

Following his father’s advice to “treat people . . . as though they were angels sent from heaven, ” Mawi tightly grasped the idea of good work ethic, and delighted not only himself, but his family’s dream of a full-tuition scholarship to Harvard University.

As an adoptive mom to older Ethiopian boys, it was incredibly eye-opening as I imagined our boys going through similar pain, loneliness, and loss as they manouver their new lives in America.

I got more insight on the division of African kids within each other {which we’ve experienced with Abreham and other African {non-Ethiopian} kids at school}, the fighting that is ingrained within them from early years in rough areas, and missing absolutely everything about their homeland. Even recalling the awful parts brought pangs of mourning and wanting to go back.

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Terri Blackstock books

I picked up these two books at our church’s $1 used book fair and finally got to reading them. A series of four books, I’m really excited to finish the story.

Last Light begins as a wealthy father and grown daughter step from their airplane onto the tarmac in Birmingham. All of a sudden, an eerie quiet settles over the airport “as if someone had muted all the machinery around them.” Suddenly, planes begin to fall from the sky, exploding around them as they hit the ground. As moments continue, the pair realizes nothing works… phones, cars, water, anything that requires electricity to work.

After riding a bike part of the way and walking the rest, the Branning family is reunited and safe {for now}. The entire country {later they learn the entire globe} is thrown back into an age before electricity. Banks are shut down, stores are empty. People are acting out in violence because of fear and lack of food and resources.

The Brannings are quickly faced with the decision of hoarding everything…or trusting God to provide as they offer their resources to others. But trust is sometimes difficult when someone in their neighborhood is a killer.

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Night Light continues where the previous book left off. The Branning family {and the rest of the community} seems to be getting the hang of walking to get water, living by candlelight, and the slow-paced yet hard working lives that has become their reality. Their front yards are no longer beautifully manicured lawns and rosebushes, but rather have been tilled and seeds planted, as crops are needed so families can eat and live.

With the discovery of four children living alone in a filthy apartment, stealing to stay alive, the Brannings know the right things is to take them in. But with them comes a lot of pain and obstacles to overcome. The search for their mother uncovers a trail of desperation and murder…and for the Brannings, a powerful new purpose that can transform their entire community…and above all, themselves.

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I can’t wait to read the next books! I keep thinking how prepared {or not} our family would be if this happened in real life!

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Blessed Child book

The Blessed Child is such an amazing story of a young orphaned boy who was abandoned and raised in an monastery in the jungles of Ethiopia. He has never seen outside its walls, but suddenly he is running from men with guns…he must flee those walls or die.

Relief expert Jason Marker agrees to rescue little Caleb from the monastery and travels on with him to his own home in California, joined by Leiah, the French Canadian nurse who escapes with them. His heroism in saving the little boy however, unknowingly opens the door to an incredible journey filled with thrill, romance, and supernatural experiences.

Jason and Leah {and me!!} all have our eyes and hearts opened to this little boy who pours out the love of God, sweet innocence, and immense manifestations of the Power of God. The question is how the world will receive him {and who they believe the power is from} and if the men with the guns can finish the job they set out to do.

Spine tingling in places and leaving me in awe in others, I came away from this book not only entertained by a fantastically written novel…but encouraged in my Christian walk, as well.

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faith based books

 one thousand gifts book

Though it admittedly took me awhile to get into this book because of her poetic manner of writing, One Thousand Gifts is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life {in fact, I am thinking about reading it again!}.

In it, Ann Voskamp takes you through the horrors of being a child and seeing her sister hit by a car on their farm and die in their mothers arms. Ripping apart the hearts and souls of her parents, any faith in God was gone. Hardened by pain, she went through life with many more sorrows, many hurtles {some of them self-induced}.

Now married to a farmer, and in the midst of home schooling their six children, her soul awakens to the thought of eucharisteo - the Greek word for Thanksgiving. And yet the word also envelops the Greek words for grace and joy.

I whisper it out loud, let the tongue feel these sounds, the ear hear their truth.

Charis. Grace.

Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

Chara. Joy.

…A threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life? Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo.

A Greek word…that might make meaning of everything? {page 32-33}

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Joy is a huge theme for me. It’s something I search out every singe day of my chaotic life.  My post on Perfection and Joy, this one called Weary, Worn, and Remaining talks of it as well. Every post I write is signed off with TAKE JOY, which the Lord spoke to me while doing my early morning quiet time.

Take Joy. Seize it.

In this book, Anne recounts how she counts her little pieces of joy. Her blessings, however big or small. She gives thanks, eucharisteo for them.

1,000 gifts

{page 103}

Her goal was 1,000. But as she far supposed that goal, she realized what real happineness {joy} is, and how it completely changed her life…and the lives of everyone in her family.

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confessions of a raging perfectionist book

I love, love love loooooove this book. Another life-changing one as my eyes were recently opened to what an incredible burden it is to be one.

Since I’ve already talked about the book here and here, I thought I wouldn’t reinvent the wheel…but direct you to my past posts on what an impact it’s made in my life.

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anything jennie allen

This book, so perfectly titled Anything, is another life altering, face on the ground before the Father kind of story.

Jennie writes how God had been opening the eyes of she and her husband Zac {a pastor in Austin, TX} to how precious our temporary lives are and how numbly we move through them. One night while climbing into bed, they began to pray Anything. “God we will do anything. Anything.” they told Him.

We were over it. We were over building our lives. We were over houses and cars and cute Christmas cards. We wanted something; we just couldn’t put our finger on it. It was burning in us. We had loved so many other things more than God. {page xi}

The book weaves around their desire for God to answer their prayer. “Lord, do you want us to give up the house we just built for something smaller, less expensive?” They felt a no. What about filling the extra bed in their son’s room, they questioned. Yes, they felt God answer. Adoption? Yes.

And so much more.

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Inside these pages are lessons on trust…

Do I trust God? Today as I write, I am in Colorado with my sister, Brooke, who just bravely delivered her daughter, little Lucy, twenty weeks too soon. Lucy is with Jesus. Today Brooke said through tears, “I trust God.” The beauty of the statement on this day makes me cry. God, give us enough faith for whatever the stories of our lives will hold, even in the worst of days. {page 61}

Overcoming doubt…

We avoid compelling anyone to God because it may feel cheesy or annoying. Well then, we have to find ways to compel that aren’t cheesy or ann {page 139}

One big thing – God must replace the chaos of me. I’m over my cute, comfortable, easy life. I don’t want to make decisions based on my adequacy and capacity. I don’t want to miss what God has for us because I’m afraid. {page 144}

God in the chaos…

At some point you either live perpetually anxious or give in and embrace the fact that your life is now completely out of your control…

…You still train your kids, but somehow you learn to let it all play out rather than trying so hard to smash it and them into perfect compliance…

…And while it was hard…it was simple. God was in control. he was real. He saw us. And we were going to eventually or quickly get to heaven with him. See, we weren’t going to be here very long. And everything we did between now and when we met him was up to him. {page 147-148}

control…

For years, I had known what I should do but could not seem to control my heart to do ti. I could hear good advice, even godly advice, but I couldn’t seem to stop my heart from feeling the out-of-control feelings of fear and insecurity and pride. How does one control the heart? 

Jesus prayed before he died, “You live for this other world, you live my mission, you glorify me here by obeying my voice and my Word, and you fight well, and I am telling you all of this because I want you to have joy. {page 163}

{ahhh joy. we’ve come full-circle. I told you it’s the theme in my life}

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It’s chalk-full of thought provoking lines, such as…

We weren’t as scared as we should have been. We were just so tired of normal. {page 91}

I wanted to be right with my God at the end of my life rather than right with all the people in it. {page 92}

So how do we actually let God change us? {page 102}

Without the Spirit of God to lead our anything, we will only be do-gooders with our own agendas. {page 121}

If life is temporary, why create the safest one possible that gets you through it with the least amount of scars? {page 135}

We don’t follow God just because he is God, just because he is boss. We follow God because he builds beautiful stories, even if they are not easy. {page 135}

If we pray anything, we will all, like Christ, be called to give up this life and things we love. We will be called to risk for his glory. Christ never intended those who walked with him to feel comfortable and safe… {page 136}

Ohmygosh, I obviously could go on and on about this book.

Basically? You need it. Get it. Read it.

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books

I so hope some {or all} of these books have stirred up something within you and will sometime rest in your hands as you curl up in the coziness of your bed or favorite chair.

They’re amazing, thought provoking, and if your heart is open for it…life changing.

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Last weekend while at one of our fabulous museums here in Denver, a woman struck up conversation as we watched our children take part in one of the exhibits. She saw how many kids we had and asked about them.

After telling her we had adopted them from Ethiopia, she looked completely bewildered.

“But WHY? Why would you do that?” she asked aloud.

Half trying to pay attention to our six kids running all over the place and half trying to explain to her the great need out there, I was frustrated. How can she be so shocked we did this?! How can this be such a foreign concept?!

I remember another woman, years ago who told me:

“Oh I could NEVER do that. We don’t have a big enough house for all the kids to have their own rooms!”

Really. REALLY? That is your reasoning?!

{for the record, every one of our kids is doubled up in their rooms}

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Now I TOOOOOTALLY get that not everyone is called to adopt. I don’t think it’s for every family.

. . . . . .

BUT…I certainly DO think we are all called to do SOMETHING for the poor, for the orphans, and for the widows.

I just finished reading an incredible book by the former CEO of World Vision and his wife, Richard & Renee Stearns, called He Walks Among Us.

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In it they share short stories of individuals they had met in their travels around the globe, how they’ve overcome struggles, and how God is working in the lives of the poorest of the poor.

It’s inspiring. {and the photography is breathtaking}

Toward the end of the book is a chapter titled Seven Steps to Poverty.

I wanted to share it with you. It certainly helped me understand a little more, what it would be like to live in the way that much of the world does.

REMEMBER…we CAN do something to help! We CAN make a difference.

Ready? Here we go…

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Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

{Leviticus 19:18}

I’d like to take you on a mental and emotional journey into poverty. Follow me as, one at a time, I take seven things away from you. And let yourself feel the pain of the poor.

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First, I will take away your clothes.

Don’t panic, I won’t take them all. You can keep the ones you’re wearing. Can you imagine wearing the same clothes every single day? You can wash them each night, but even this small takeaway is humiliating.

Next, I will take away electricity and power.

Imagine going home to a dark house each night. None of your appliances work: you can’t use your refrigerator, telephone, heater, air conditioner, dishwasher, television, computer, or stove.

Your showers are cold, and now you have to wash your clothes by hand. Inconvenient is an understatement. But you shouldn’t feel too bad; you are still better off than most of the world.

Takeaway number three is really tough: I’m taking away your clean water.

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{sadly, could not find source}

Now none of your faucets, toilets, or showers work, and your only water source is a stagnant water hold about a mile away. You must walk hours each day to fetch the water your family needs, and because it is teeming with bacteria, you and your children are constantly sick.

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Making this situation even harder is the fact that none of your neighbors have been affected, and they don’t even seem to notice your suffering.

I’m afraid I now have to take away your home, so you have to live in a ten-by-twenty foot mud hut with a dirt floor, no beds, and little furniture. Your whole family will now sleep in the same room on the floor.

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Takeaway number five is devastating: food.

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Long ago your children lost their smiles; now they are so hungry that the gnawing pain won’t go away. You have to find what little food you can by picking through your neighbors’ garbage. Already sick from drinking dirty water, your children become malnourished, and their bodies can’t fight off diseases. Your four-year-old daughter seems to be slipping away.

Getting her to the doctor is urgent but, tragically, the sixth takeaway is health care.

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To your horror and disbelief, there is no doctor and you have no option except to watch powerlessly as your daughter, wracked with parasites and diarrhea, dies before your very eyes! How can this be happening?

So what else could I possibly take away?.

Your hope has died in the ashes of your poverty.

And you wonder why no one has stepped in to help you.

Do these seven takeaways make you feel compelled to do something about the hardships that billions of people endure each day?

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in him?

{I John 3:17}

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Please…PLEASE don’t think there’s nothing you can do from here.

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. . . . . .

These organizations, though largely African in focus…are some that we hold close to our hearts.

{water/wells} Water to Thrive

{mosquito nets to prevent malaria} Nothing but Nets

{building wells, schools, medical clinics} A Glimmer of Hope

{shoes/protecting feet of children from hookworm and more} Soles for Souls

{helping free women from sex trade/human rights} International Justice Mission

{sponsor a child} World Vision & Compassion International

{give the gift of an animal & more} World Vision

. . . . . .

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You CAN make a difference. It may seem small to you…but it’s life changing for them.

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coffee filter wreathEarlier in the week, I talked about the fun coffee filter wreath I just made…which inspired a little room-redo and mantle decorating {I love shopping our house}!

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Today, I thought I’d show you how to make your own…for about $5.

Crazy, I know.

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You can use any wreath base you like or have on hand. I chose this wire one, from the floral department our local craft store because it cost just over a dollar.

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I started off by getting out my glue gun and glueing filters to cover the wire and give myself more space to eventually cover.

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Folding the filters into fourths like this, and placing glue on the edge, I first worked on the outside layer.

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It began to look like this.

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I next did the inside circle in the same manner.

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Finally the fun part…the inside! I crinkled each filter like the above photo, again glueing at the bottom and pressing it in.

Be careful doing this part, I burned myself on the hot glue SO many times!

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Make sure you place the filters extremely close together for the fullest look.

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It took me two days because Ben was out of town and I was alone with our six Crazies…and I had to take lots of breaks for fort building, cookie making, and museum going.

BUT all in all, it probably took me an hour and a half or so. Not too bad.

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After just shy of 300 filters, I am so excited about how it turned out!

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I think it just may be the prettiest and least expensive wreath I’ve ever made.

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I hope you have as much fun making yours!

Send photos over to my Hugs & Punches Facebook Page! I’d love to see them!

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fireplace

I love Christmas and all the decorations, but when the season is over and the tree is put away, I love the decor in our house to be simple. Streamlined. Clean.

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Today I worked on shopping our house and re-decorating our fireplace.

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It all started with this wreath I made this weekend {here’s the diy…so simple & fun}.

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The blanket and faux boxwood came from Homegoods. I love all the grays and blues.

If you want calm, these colors certainly give it. But, even if your taste calls for different ones, make sure you only use a couple colors. I’ve heard before that two colors + one accent is what’s needed for an appealing decor.

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Ben bought me this fun zebra chair from Nordstrom Home maybe seven years ago.

I still love it!

The column we use as a side table was from the garden center at the grocery store near my first apartment when I couldn’t afford something for beside my bed. This one was under $15. When we need more tabletop space, I’ll place a tray or large coffee table art book on top so there’s room for a few more items.

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{I love that mixing gold and silver is okay}

The globe is from Goodwill, the faux plant from Ikea.

The beautiful gold lanterns were from Thanksgiving dinner.

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But before that, they were 90% off at Hobby Lobby.

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However, not so much my taste.

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But…nothing a little spray paint can’t fix!

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A mixture of blue and cream bound books adds texture and interest, but without being too busy.

Google locations near you for secondhand books, Goodwill, or keep your eyes open at garage sales and church flea markets for beautifully worn ones.

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A large glass jar contains a bunch of candles from Ikea.

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What do you think? Serene without being boring?

I think maybe I love it.

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\\ Remember to check back later in the week for the diy on making this beautiful wreath! \\

No joke, I made it for about $5. And it’s made from coffee filters. So fun!

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{tutorials on making our chevron and chalkboard fireplace: 1, 2, 3 }

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{linked up to these fun parties!}

. the gunny sack . a bowl full of lemons . chef in training . the blackberry vine . growing home . cedar hill farmhouse . nap-time creations . vmv 206 . ladybug blessings . finding heaven today . a stroll through life . jaqs studio . sew much to do . seven thirty three . not just a housewife . we are that family . a wise woman builds her home .

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We’ve had Abreham home for almost six months now.

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As you’d expect, we’ve gone through highs and lows, and have had a dark shadow looming over our house at times, too.

Mostly though, it’s been a 14 year old boy learning to trust.

But how do you trust when you’ve been let down so many times? How do you put your life in a family’s hands whom you barely know and have a completely different way of doing things, when you’ve been on your own since a small child?

Today was a big day of trust for us, as Abreham finally agreed to get his teeth worked on. More than a decade without a toothbrush will do a lot of damage and the black in his molars isn’t chocolate, like he’s tried to convince us.

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A few weeks ago Abreham went to the doctor for some immunizations that his school nurse said must be done before he came back to school. Ben took him and because they went so late in the day, the doctor was running behind…really behind.

Ben said he could see Abreham, almost minute by minute, going more and more into his shell as they waited.

Ezekiel has told us before how many shots he’d get while he was in Ethiopia. “For everything”, he’d shared. “Headaches, stomach aches, whatever.” We know our sweet African boys are not strangers to being pierced by a needle and sit in the waiting room with dread and a nervous stomach every time.

Sadly on this day, by the time the nurse came back with a tray full of immunizations, he was done.

“No.” He said to the nurse sternly. “No shots.”

After much coaxing and convincing, they left…puncture free. And Abreham was in a very, VERY bad mood. He wouldn’t eat dinner that evening, nor would he speak to us. He simply put himself to bed early, knowing he was not allowed to go to school the next day…or any day, until he went back for his immunizations.

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That next day I woke him up at 6:30am, just as I do every morning. While sitting on the edge of his bed, I whispered that he needed to get up and take a shower.

“No wake up, mom. I no school today. No shots, remember?”

“Ah yes, my love. I remember. BUT no school does not mean a day to sleep and play. No drawing or Ethiopian YouTube videos, no playing outside or going for a run. Today, if you do not go to school and work, you will work at home. I have many jobs for you and have a workbook waiting downstairs for after breakfast.”

Oh shoot. He realized we were serious about this shot thing. The look on his face was priceless.

Upon coming downstairs after his shower and making his bed, he began making himself some scrambled eggs. “You want some, mom? How many eggs?” I love when he makes me breakfast, and honestly these days he does it most mornings.

As we ate together in the kitchen, me fixing us both some coffee, he looked me in the eye and apologized for the day before.

“I’m sorry no shots, mom. I’m sorry to dad.”

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We talked about it as we munched on our steaming breakfast and as he shared with me his fears, I reminded him how Ben and I want the best for him.

“We don’t do things to hurt you. We do everything we can to keep you safe and healthy. To make life good. Not easy. But good. Daddy and I want to protect you…but sometimes we will ask you to do things that are new. Things that make you nervous and maybe even scared. But we will never ask you to do something bad. We only want good for you.”

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He looked at me, searching my eyes, as if he was trying to learn how to trust us…but didn’t know if he could. Or should.

I could almost see the wheels turning in his brain as he thought back on things Ben and I have done or required of him. Perhaps even thinking back on his life in Ethiopia, learning there that to trust was to be hurt.

I put my hand over his and again looked him straight into his eyes. “Dad and I will NEVER do anything to hurt you. We love you so much. We want the best for you. You can trust us. I promise, you can trust me.”

A smile slowly spread across his face and he asked that I call Ben to tell him he was ready to go back. After taking the rest of the Crazies to school, we set off for the doctor once again. And he did it. Blood was drawn and a half-dozen needles were shoved {as carefully as possible} into his arm.

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“I am strrrong, mom.” He said, in his beautiful Ethiopian accent, rolling his r’s. “I am brave. And I am ready for the dentist.”

So that brings us to today. Our sweet dentist, who we adore, walked him through everything and told him step-by-step what he was doing {all the while, keeping the needles out of his line of sight}.

Many fillings and the extraction of one very infected tooth and we were on our way home.

“I am happy, mom. My teeth no hurt. You are good, mom.”

Such a far-cry from this past fall when we’d tried this two other times. Even Valium couldn’t calm down his freaking out those times. It was bad. I can’t even explain how awful those trips were. Think worse-case scenario and you might get it.

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Abreham’s grandmother had told him that in America, our medicine is witchcraft. It’s voodoo. “No wonder he’s having a hard time trusting us!” Ben and I said to each other as a friend translated his fears, after one of the horrific times we tried the dentist this fall.

Trust. It’s huge. Especially for a child who’s been hurt time and time again.

But we’re getting there. He even hugged me today, saying thank you.

Hugs from him are like gold. They’re so very infrequent and incredibly cherished.

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“I like that doctor. Good man, mom. Good doctor. No hurt.”

Like our sweet Abreham who is learning to trust that his mom and dad love him and want the absolute best for him, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us and want the best for us?

Even if at times it’s scary and things hurt a little. Coming out on the other side, with trust in one arm and becoming better for the sake of experiences in the other, we know we are loved.

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