This blog is dedicated to the musings of integrating faith, learning, and social engagement. You’ll find ideas presented here that demonstrate an active faith seeking understanding through all matters pertaining to life and death. Feel free to stop by when you can and share a comment if something captures your attention or stirs your imagination. Perhaps you’ll even be encouraged here from time to time by finding compelling evidence that life indeed matters. We have all been given a remarkable gift from our Creator – the miraculous breath of life itself. May we extend good favor toward the One who made us in His image by living out an authentic faith as we care for our planet and the people throughout the world who journey with us.
In light of the recent news story below, I felt inspired to supply the underlying narrative.
Once upon a time (all great stories begin this way), a young African woman lived in a small obscure village in southern Ethiopia. She had a beautiful baby girl who was unfortunately very ill and needed great care. Through remarkable courage and surprising unselfishness, the young woman set out on foot for a long journey to relinquish her baby girl to a remote childcare center with a singular hope for a better world for her child.
And the Spirit of God moved with the breath of hope.
The childcare center offered the only real opportunity for the baby to be given the medicine, food, and clean water she needed to survive…and ultimately even a remote chance to be adopted out of the poverty and oppression experienced by her birth family. Yet despite the odds, the baby girl was given the name Netsanet by her birth family – a name that means “freedom” – in hope that she would escape the pain and suffering that had plagued her village for generations.
And the Spirit of God moved with the breath of hope.
At the same time on the other side of the world, one very fortunate couple – who already enjoyed parenting three special boys of their own – was given an opportunity to travel thousands of miles away from their home in East Tennessee to adopt this little girl. Once home and embraced by a loving family and a hospitable community, little Netsanet grew strong, happy, and healthy. It wasn’t long before the couple found a way to offer more hope and encouragement to Netsanet’s birth village. The couple was delighted to find an organization that builds wells in Ethiopia. After months of saving and planning, the result was a newly constructed water well, dedicated in Netsanet’s honor, that would provide clean water for 200 families and 2,000 students in the same obscure village where the story began.
And the Spirit of God moved with the breath of hope.
One evening in a short presentation to their local church family, the couple recounted the amazing story of Netsanet’s life, the courage of her birth mother, and subsequently what a blessing it was to be able to provide clean water for the poor village in Ethiopia. The couple finished their presentation that evening not knowing that among the adults attending the service was a young boy who was paying particular attention to the part of their story about the lack of clean water in Africa. “If people really need clean water, why are we not doing something about it?” he reasoned.
And the Spirit of God moved with the breath of hope.
This week, our church celebrated the “Dig Deep for Africa” campaign led by our children’s pastor, and the children under her care who committed their time for months to raise money for a clean water well in Africa. Though the goal was initially to raise enough to build one well, the children actually raised enough money to build a new well in Uganda, and repair another well in Sierra Leone.
The Spirit of God moves even today with the breath of hope. Who will be affected next?
In my blog entitled Life Matters, I have set out to explore a simple idea – that life is embedded with meaning and value without having to ascribe something else to it. I have found it ironic that the more I focus on the needs of others (and why their lives matter), the less time I have to be consumed by my futile quest of justifying the significance of my own life. It’s actually quite liberating.
Perhaps this is why Moms do not get sick very often – there is no time to be sick and think about your own troubles when you are taking care of all the others that are sick and needing assistance.
Why does life matter – really? Jesus once said that the objective evidence of being one of his disciples is the outward practical expressions of having love for one another. Interestingly, he did not suggest that the evidence was relegated to the cognitive domain alone, as if theological precision was somehow the key to following him. Instead, Jesus pointed to simple praxis – that we must practically demonstrate love for one another. If life indeed matters, as I suggest, then I am compelled to think of others and act in their best interests. Let me share how this has played out in recent months…
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We received some really exciting news to share. After visiting Ethiopia twice last year, and seeing first-hand the struggles these resilient people deal with on a daily basis, Angelia and I decided to explore how we might be able to do something more for them – something helpful and immediate – something that would say to them that their lives matter today…even to people they do not know on the other side of the world. Because the needs in Ethiopia are so basic to life, we quickly formed an idea… A WELL FOR CLEAN WATER!
One of the images we will never forget from our six hour drive to Durame from the capital city of Addis Ababa was the number of people we saw walking great distances for usable water. In fact, we would later learn that as a daily chore, many people in Ethiopia must walk several miles to get water, and then are faced with the difficult and perfunctory task of carrying their supply back to their homes.
UNICEF reports that Ethiopia suffers from some of the worst water issues in the world. Official figures state that only 31% of households have access to safe water and only 18% have access to sanitation facilities. This problem is compounded by the fact that water quality is very low, increasing the likelihood of water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery. Even having “access” to water is problematic in Ethiopia. For those living in rural areas, having access means that women and children must walk up to six hours a day to collect dirty water in 40-50 pound jerrycans from contaminated sources. Obviously no one should have to live like this!
So last fall, we took our family on a brief trip to Nashville to visit Mr. Joseph Smith from Healing Hands International. Joseph is the Director of Operations, and just happens to be an expert in working with mission initiatives in various parts of the world – including Ethiopia. He loved our idea of putting in a clean water well in Ethiopia. In fact, after explaining how clean water wells work in developing countries, Joseph gave us hope that we could actually build a well for the people in the area where our daughter Netsanet is from. Healing Hands International had secured a 42 well agreement with Ethiopia.
How thrilled we were to know that there were people already on the ground in Ethiopia with rigs for drilling and locations identified as possible clean water sources. With a little money, time, persistence, and good weather, Joseph promised us that it would be very doable to bring life sustaining clean water to a number of needy people in Ethiopia. And so, armed with our simple belief that “life matters,” even for folks on the other side of the globe, we started the journey of building our first water-well in southern Ethiopia.
Our goal was to locate a clean water source somewhere close to where our daughter Netsanet was born. Within a couple of months, Joseph had his crew working with the Church of Christ Mission and had identified the perfect location for us. Joseph helped us secure an approved location inside the town of Durame, the administrative center of the Kembata Tembaro Zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples region in Ethiopia. This was the exact town where Netsanet’s first orphanage was located!
After the American driller had completed his work in late February of this year, an Ethiopian crew took over to complete the pump and test the water. Just a few days ago, we received news (and pictures) that our pump was now active and working.
The well itself is located at the Zato Shodera School in Durame. The school accommodates 2,000 students and will support about 200 family units. Joseph reported to us that these families have never had a clean source of water before now. He also told us that the well will provide them safe water for the rest of their lives.
When the pictures of the new well arrived, I was overcome with excitement (and tears of joy). As I looked closely at one of the pictures with the children crowding around the pump, I couldn’t help but notice how much the little girl on the far right looked like our Netsanet!
Joseph provided another picture that showed the same little girl getting some clean water for herself, as her friends looked on with excitement. Yes, I cried a little more in thinking about how that girl could easily have been Netsanet.
In that same region of Ethiopia several years ago, an obscure Christian woman of little means named a baby girl “Netsanet,” which literally means “freedom,” in hopes that God would spare her child by one day allowing her to be free from the oppression and struggles fated for her family. She, too, intuitively knew that “life matters.”
What would unfold in a chain of events since that time is hard for me to comprehend. Little Netsanet would suffer the painful separation from her birthmother for the chance to be free. Last year at this time, Netsanet realized her freedom by coming to American and being adopted into our family. Today she thrives and brings a smile to all who know her. She is a wellspring of life and love. It is because of her that clean water now flows in her homeland. In a humble demonstration of love for one another, Freedom’s wellspring brought life to those in great need.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Sometimes you run across something beautiful – something that causes you to pause inexplicably – something that takes you to another place, if just for a brief moment. I often live for those times, don’t you? Let me share with you…
Last night, I had one of those moments. I was finishing Rachel Held Evans’s Evolving in Monkey Town when I ran across her simple heart-felt description of LOVE. After reading it again, I was transfixed for a few moments, allowing it to steep slowly into my brain. To be honest, the book itself has been working me over quite a bit. It has challenged my thinking and made me uncomfortable at times. At the same time, Rachel’s big ideas have hit home as well, resonating with many of the sentiments that have crossed my mind over the past few years. Rachel writes as a skeptical millennial Christian – born and raised in the Bible belt, and literally submerged into the culture of fundamentalist Christianity for most of her life. Her journey is about moving from certainty, through doubt, to faith (23).
For those of us familiar with the Christian ghetto language of evangelicalism, there are times in her book that you simply laugh out loud – this of course is followed by times when her critique of our faith drops your jaw and reminds you of how many things the church has butchered over the years. Here are a few of her zingers:
- The apologetics movement had created a monster…it was only a matter of time before I turned the same skeptical eye upon my own faith (79).
- Pond-scum theology is the premise that human beings have no intrinsic value or claim to salvation because their sin nature make them so thoroughly disgusting and offensive to God that he is under no obligation to pay them any mind…it makes Jesus look like a fool for dying for us, and it leaves his followers with little incentive to seek out and celebrate the good in one another (116-117).
- Apologists like to say that following Christ shouldn’t mean checking our brains at the door. Perhaps it shouldn’t mean checking our hearts either (130).
- Perhaps being a Christian isn’t about experiencing the kingdom of heaven someday but about experiencing the kingdom of heaven every day (173).
- While I still believe that Jesus died to save us from our sins, I’m beginning to think that Jesus also lived to save us from our sins (175).
- Doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves (219).
- Most of the people I’ve encountered are looking not for a religion to answer all their questions but for a community of faith in which they can feel safe asking them (222).
Rachel is a postmodern person of faith – without the familiar posturing so characteristic of a prior generation of evangelical Christians. That’s right – she is not a republican, she is not for war, she thinks women are able to serve the Lord just like men, she believes in evolution, and she has the audacity to point out the fact that even the best “Bible-believing” Christians “pick and choose” what they believe and practice from Scripture. Ouch Rachel!
Rachel also recognizes that she was fortunate enough to be a winner in what she rightly calls “the cosmic lottery” – being “lucky” or perhaps “blessed” enough to have been born to wonderful parents in a loving Christian home in America. She contrasts this to those who are not “lucky” winners in the lottery of geography in order to make a sobering point: “I sometimes wonder what sort of convictions I might have held had I lived in a different time and place” (21). Rachel convicted me (once again) of the dichotomy between the world’s rich and poor, and how simple geography plays such a defining role.
Of course, I cannot say that I agree with all of the ideas in her book (and I’m guessing that she would be just fine with that too), but I also cannot deny how compelling and familiar her faith story is. Towards the end of her text, she finally pens eloquently – and in a way that I have been previously unable to articulate – what I have been writing and thinking about for some time now in terms of the breakdown of naïve rationalism and the important implications of living in a post-foundational world. In a word, Rachel calls it LOVE – “it’s that simple and that profound. It’s that easy and that hard” (209).
Here is how Rachel explains it, and I hope you find it as beautiful as I do (the music crescendos, the lights dim, and the curtain is raised):
How ironic that the most important fundamental element of the Christian faith is something that is relative, something that cannot be measured with science, systematized with theology, or managed with rules. How fitting and how strange that God should hide his biggest secret in that present yet elusive thing that poets and artists and musicians and theologians and philosophers have spent centuries trying to capture in some form but that we all know the minute we experience it. How lovely and how terrible that absolute truth exists in something that cannot really be named (210).
I’m interested to see what some of you think about Rachel’s description of love. Does her description resonate with you?
I never found all the hidden eggs at Easter, but I always enjoyed the hunt. The key is to stay at it – not to give in to an empty basket. I know this can be frustrating – especially when you have been searching so long without any trace of the treasure you know (or at least hope) is out there somewhere. If your basket is empty too long, the temptation is simply to walk away resigned to the notion that there are no more eggs left to find – or even worse – perhaps there never were any eggs in the first place – that the whole hunt was some kind of cruel hoax.
This thought has taken me some time to learn, but I am beginning to see the wisdom of Frederick Buechner’s big idea:
“All I can do with real assurance is [echo] the effect that here and there even in our world, and now and then even in ourselves, we catch glimpses of a New Creation, which, fleeting as those glimpses are apt to be, give us hope for this life and for whatever life may await us later on.”
I know this idea isn’t very romantic – nothing like the fanciful idea I once held as a younger Christian that there are sustained waves of Christian thought and practice showering our communities and world with the “Good News” of Jesus. “Saving the World for Jesus” makes a nice bumper sticker, and a good youth rally I suppose, but it doesn’t seem to match closely with reality these days. The sad fact is that we Christians often tend to “eat our own” rather than stand tall as exemplars of Christ’s love and grace. And when we cannot even get along with one another, the love we are peddling finds no room in the marketplace of daily life. Without the evidence of love among us, the quest for hidden eggs – artifacts that demonstrate the transforming power of faith - is just a fanciful child’s game with no apparent grounding in reality. But I am not ready to leave the quest just yet. Here’s why…
Though Buechner’s idea is not romantic, at the same time, it is not hopelessly dystopian either. Yes, I recognize there is little warrant to dream of a world (at least the world as we know of it now or in our immediate future) where love and grace permeate every corner of life – where collective peace prevails over narcissism in every land – where love is the ubiquitous hardwiring in the human heart. Nevertheless, I keep asking the question: Can we still have hope? Are there real pockets of progress – evidence of faith gone viral – not in a just a technocratic sense, but an intentional movement to go from the biblical Page to Practice? In short, are there any hidden eggs of treasure out there? To this end, though perhaps more modest than before, I resolve not to lose my grip and drop my basket in despair. I still desire and expect to find an egg or two from time to time…something splendidly transcendent that reminds me of God’s power at work in the hearts and minds of myself and others.
Admittedly, the biblical framework we put around the gospel – our latest and greatest “perspectives and insights” – are never quite right. Our theories are always better than our practice. Like a beautiful frame without a photograph (or a golden egg with no treasure inside), our orthopraxis is often left wanting and empty. But, as Buechner suggested, “here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves” we see signposts pointing to God’s kingdom and grace. There is an occasional trail of evidence that the Divine is nearby.
Don’t hear me wrong – I’m not advocating a “we can find God if we try hard enough” kind of spirituality. I recognize that it is God who finds us first. What I am concerned about is the evidence, or lack thereof, that He found us and invited us to the hunt. Where is the evidence that the Great Creator has found us, prompting us to a life of faith and practice? Like the hunter of eggs, surely we go about our lives with the hope that there is an occasional treasure to be found among us – evidence not only that faith is real, but that faith truly changes things for the better. Yes, the New Creation is “usually hidden” – but thankfully not always out of sight.
As I reflect again on the significance of Christ’s resurrection at Easter, I am choosing to think well not only about the forgiveness of sins – the forensic justification that Christ secured for me on the cross – but also about the victory He demonstrated over death and evil. And because of this victory – this demonstration that God’s kingdom has been inaugurated on earth – that it has indeed broken through the outer and inner layers of our world – I find myself continuing my search for “hidden eggs” of great treasure in my life and in the lives of others that provide further evidence of God’s New Creation among us.
Let this Easter season be a time you enter the hunt (or continue the hunt) with me. Realistically, you won’t find all the eggs – but surely “here and there and now and then” something of beauty will be made manifest.
Here is an encouraging thought: While on your hunt for the hidden treasure, be conscious to plant a few eggs of your own to encourage the search of someone else. Here and there and now and then our lives must manifest Christ. Easter is not the end, but only a New Beginning.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
How good are you at remembering things? I confess; I stink at it. Google Calendar and my iPhone are necessary tools to navigate my life with any regularity nowadays. I’m the guy always looking for his keys (have you seen them?) and the pen I’m desperately trying to find is often parked over my ear. I sometimes walk in a room with a determined step, but then forget why I entered in the first place. I can’t remember the names of old friends, neighbors, and yes, sad to say, it often takes me one or two tries to attach the right name to the right child of mine.
Speaking of my children, yesterday I took all four of them to see Star Wars Episode I. I know we have seen it 1,000 times before (and you probably have too) – but as my boys reminded me, we had not seen it in real digital 3D at the Regal Pinnacle mega-plex, with its lavish stadium seating and endless supply of tasty treats. As we watched the all-too-familiar movie together, transfixed as if seeing it for the very first time, I was struck by the contrast of what I was doing this time last year.
One year ago today, Angelia and I were in Durame, Ethiopia, a very small town in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia. February 13, 2011 was the first day we saw our daughter, Netsanet Wataro, face-to-face. In contrast to the lavishness of the Regal Pinnacle mega-plex, Angelia and I sat on a tattered carpeted floor in a poor, but surprisingly clean and functional orphanage. In contrast to the large quantities of everything that the Regal serves up “at the right price,” in Durame, we just had a small cup of coffee and a few bites of unsalted popcorn. I hope you can imagine the great contrast – to see Netsa today all propped up pristinely in a large comfy captain’s chair, arms encircling a tub of buttery salty popcorn so enormous that you could barely see her 3D eyeglasses peering over the top at the big screen…and of course, slurping through a 24 inch straw on a sugary soft-drink too heavy to lift. Goodness, how life has changed for her in just 1 years’ time!
With this cacophony between Ethiopian struggle and American luxury before me, I had a moment of sadness about it all. Perhaps “conviction” is a better word – this overwhelming feeling of thankfulness for our blessings, but with a pronounced pain of reality that life’s struggles in Ethiopia continue for so many. May I never forget what I experienced in Ethiopia – what I saw, felt, smelled, heard, and tasted – of a world so far removed from my own.
In my moment of reflection, I was reminded of a major theme in Old Testament history – to “take care lest you forget the Lord your God.” This theme is repeated over and over again, as if God somehow knew of human proclivity to cry out to him in times of great struggle, and yet to so easily forget Him when times are better. How easy it is to lose sight of where we came from – to forget what He did (and is doing) for us and among us every day. Have too many of us in America so actualized a perverted state of “blessed hollowness” described in the ancient text below?
11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
I applaud the Star Wars folks for knowing how to keep a great story fresh and in front of us generation after generation. Many of us still sit captivated today by this fanciful and epic tale. Seeing Episode I again with my children reminded me of the real quest before me: can I can keep Netsa’s story fresh and alive and in full 3D as well? Can I “take care lest I forget” the plight of so many wonderful Ethiopian people – and surely so many others just like them across our globe in other nations – people who struggle for safe drinking water, basic medicine, adequate shelter, and general education. As Christ prayed in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, surely He desired for us to be mindful and take action for those so less fortunate and so needlessly suffering.
What a witness of the greatness of the Star Wars story as it will again assemble millions who are willing to remember Episode I. With our pocketbooks in hand, so many of us will take time to hear and see once again how the great Star Wars saga all began. It seems to me that the church today could learn a lesson from this powerful force in contemporary culture. What do we need to do to shake us out of our suburban comforts and to extend love to others – in our workplaces and halls of leisure, in our neighborhoods, civic clubs, churches (yes churches too) and, if you dare the thought, even to those whose names and faces we do not know around the world?
Perhaps we too could affect millions if we would “take care to remember” our First Love. For Christians, our Episode I is simply this: God so loved us that He moved First among us to bless us, not because we are such awesome and deserving people, but SO THAT we would extend our blessings to others – all for His good glory and honor. If we “take care lest we forget” Episode I of God’s grand story, maybe we’ll then recognize His Kingdom come – a Kingdom that is indeed “out of this world.”
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
On this Saturday one year ago, Lynn and I met Netsanet Wataro for the first time in a care center in Durame, Ethiopia. After a whirlwind excursion from Maryville (via Atlanta, Amsterdam, and Sudan) to Addis Ababa, we traveled by van to Durame with our driver, our social worker, and another wonderful couple from San Antonio, TX. We were jetlagged and disoriented. When our van pulled up to the care center, we were bombarded by children outside the center begging for anything we could give them and trying to get inside the protective gates. We were directed into the care center campus, which was painted with lovely child-friendly colors and unlike most everything else we had seen on the road to Durame, landscaped with lush flowering plants.
As we turned a corner past the water reservoir and coffee trees a sweet, bald cherub, encouraged by her loving nanny, appeared from a walk way and handed me a freshly picked flower. I had wondered what that first meeting would be like, if she would be scared of me or reluctant. She jumped right into my arms and hung on tightly, but there was fear and sadness in her eyes. The caregivers had her dressed in the best they could find, a red velour skirt, a stained-but-clean white tee-shirt and white knee socks with holes in the heels. We held her and talked to the nurses and nannies, who had been caring for her for the 6 months since she had been relinquished. She sat quietly in our laps looking curiously at the dolls and toys we had brought as we balanced the celebratory coffee cups and popcorn that those wonderful Ethiopian ladies prepared for us. Netsanet Wataro was timid and shy and never uttered a sound. She fell asleep in my arms and the Nanny took her to her bed so that we could tour what had been her home for the past few months.
We met the nurses and nannies who worked there. We saw the children, some who were terribly malnourished and ill. We were amazed at how clean the building looked and smelled in spite of so many children living there and the impoverished conditions all around. Outside we saw the laundry facility, a single washing machine and several clothes lines, for more than 50 children. The play set that the nannies were so proud of…stopped us…humbly…. in our tracks. After our tour we visited Netsa’s bedroom and met her friends. Then we left her behind as abruptly as we had arrived in order to travel back to Addis to appear before a judge, meet her other mother, and get a small taste of Ethiopian culture.
Much has changed in the year since we first met Netsa. She has grown several inches and gained a lot of weight (she’s definitely the fluffiest of all the Gibson kids). She also has a mess of beautiful curly hair now.
I can’t say enough about how quickly she has dominated the English language. She can say whatever is on her mind, and there is a LOT on her mind. She is the official narrator of every event here, a behavior that brings a fair amount of shushing, especially during family movie night when some folks in the family would prefer to listen to the film rather than Netsa’s narration of it.
Netsa is often concerned about feelings, something the boys rarely think about. She regularly asks “Are you happy? Sad?” It was hard not to laugh at her the other night when she declared, “I. AM. SO. MAD.” in response to some injustice relating to a coloring book. She also has mastered the art of negotiation, along with a persuasive vocabulary. She has been lobbying for the purchase of a reindeer since we watched a video from a Wildlife Photography course taught by my friend and colleague, Drew Crain. One of our MC students had photographed a 12-point buck at Cades Cove. Netsa was inspired when she saw it in the video. “We need to buy a wein-deeuw,” she proclaimed. “Where would we keep it?” I asked. “In the guwage,” she said confidently. “Well, you’ll need to talk to dadden about that,” I said. She went immediately to Lynn, crawled into his lap, and started batting her eyes. “Dadden, you need to go to store and buy me wein-deeuw. Just a small one. ” She can tattle, negotiate, prod, sing, tell stories, ask LOTS of questions, and generally communicate as well as anyone in the family. She also can tell jokes (over and over). Her favorite is “Mom has straight hair, Netsa has curly hair, and Dad has NO hair.” Lynn is a good sport about this joke no matter how often he hears it.
Before we left the care center in Addis the night we took custody of Netsa last May, Lynn had asked her nurse if Netsanet could talk. She hadn’t said a word in all our visits with her. The nurse cackled. “Oh, she can talk,” she said and then told us how Netsa talked all about us after we left in the evenings. We now understand why the nurse laughed about that question. She can indeed talk.
In every other way, I can simply say Netsa has assimilated marvelously. She is eager to pitch in with chores, “help” me with cooking, and participate in whatever shenanigan her brothers are up to, like recently sliding down the stairs in a plastic storage bin. (This worked well, the kids explained, the first two times. After ride number three, we brought out the ice packs and took a trip to the emergency room). Costumes remain a big thing at our house and Netsa rotates regularly out of her princess gowns to become a power ranger, cowboy, spider-person, ninja, or pirate as the situation necessitates. We are well protected.
The boys have adapted marvelously too. Will is growing and changing, but has taken very seriously his role as eldest brother. He is helpful and kind and loving with the kids and has a sense of obligation and duty about him that blows my mind sometimes. He makes time to play with the little ones every day, even though his pre-teen affinities no longer involve superheroes and pirates. He helps remind everyone of their chores and the house rules. Owen has taken over Netsa’s room, since she prefers to sleep in the boys’ room so that she has someone to talk to. Owen doesn’t mind the pink and appreciates a refuge where he doesn’t have to talk to anyone! Owen is fascinated with sports and remains the low maintenance, organized, stalwart child, who is slightly annoyed by his sister’s drama and chattiness. Nate has taken over Will’s former job as chief costume director. He assembles the wardrobes for play time, ensuring that he and Netsa are properly attired for whatever adventure awaits. He is our happy, silly, loving boy. He is happy that Netsa has replaced Owen as his roomie and says that she can move out when she is 6. Nate apparently is exploring his calling as a thrill ride designer; the recent stairwell-plastic- bin shenanigan was his idea.
And while Netsa is negotiating for a reindeer, the boys are already asking us for another sister, a smaller one… who doesn’t talk quite so much.