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Happy Ethiopian Christmas

We are celebrating Ethiopian Christmas today.  In Ethiopia, Christmas is a much more Spiritual Day than here.  There are no presents and it involves fasting and feasting, focusing on the birth of Jesus.

We made homemade Injera, Doro Wat and Berbere.

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Poppy helping with the Berbere

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መዲናና ዘለሰኛ

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“While the rest of the world has already celebrated Christmas and the New Year, Ethiopian Christians are still warming up to celebrate the birth of our saviour Jesus Christ. Christians in Ethiopia celebrate Christmas Day on January 7. This date works to the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed. The Ethiopian name given to Christmas is Genna which, according to elders, comes from the word Gennana, meaning “imminent” to express the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from sin. Christmas (Gena) is celebrated in a quite different atmosphere as there is no “Santa” or exaggerated gift exchange. Gena, is just the feast to commemorate the reality that our Lord was born.

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How to Ride the Real Polar Express

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Finley’s birthday is at the end of November, and his favorite book is The Polar Express.  For his birthday this year we wanted to have a fun, family experience that captures the joy of childhood, and also conveniently ushers in the magic of the Christmas Season.

In Williams Arizona they have a train, an long, beautiful old fashioned train that does just that.  In fact, on this train, the servers wear white coats and tall white hats while singing and serving hot chocolate and cookies to jammie clad children and parents who are singing and riding to the ‘North Pole.’

And if you can hear the bell sound, it means that you still believe in Santa.

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We stayed at the Grand Hotel, which was a great spot walking distance from the train adventure and fun Christmas activities all about, plus and an indoor pool.  I know it’s in Arizona, but pack WARM because it’s very chilly there.

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The hotel has special mailboxes and letters where you can write to Santa.

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The night before we walked around down town Williams which was fun and had a couple good spots to eat and sight see, but is a tiny, little town.

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In the morning we ate at a diner, Pine Country Restaurant, with great service and the kids loved the food.

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Finley Celebrated being 6 with a cinnamon roll to share with everyone.

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Birthday Boy

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After breakfast, we walked around the Polar Express store and had such a good time, the kids were getting more and more excited about riding the Polar Express that evening.

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Getting our tickets to ride

The Polar Express

Writing a letter to Santa

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(We also visited Bearizona which was close and awesome!)

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As the day ended, we put the kids in their Christmas jammies.  All kids wore jammies to ride the train.

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Dinner before the Train Ride

And we even got to meet Mrs. Claus while we waited.

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But then it was time to get in line for the train!  Conductors walked around and said, “Well?  Are you coming!?”  to all the children.  My boys nodded silently.  You could feel the excited buzz in the air among everyone waiting to ride.

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When we got on the train, it was still light out, we picked the earliest time slot of this reason and it was fun to walk the Arizona wilderness out the train window as our train car sped along.

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The staff was upbeat and fun, and sang to us and passed out the hot cocoa, the kids were loving it!

 

 

 

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The Polar Express in Williams 

 

The sun set and we neared the ‘North Pole’ in record time, and Santa come on board with us once we arrive.  The kids couldn’t believe it!  He handed everyone a bell.

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The Polar Express

 

On the way home, the entire train car had song books and sang Christmas songs together with the staff.

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The Polar Express in Williams AZ

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It was so much fun, a memory to last a lifetime.

Things to remember when booking for your family:

-book early, spots fill up quickly

-pack warm

-secretly buy a bell at the store for your child, and let them find it before they board

-find the Polar Express store sometime before you go, we happened upon it by chance and were so glad we did.

-we loved having the earliest time slot to enjoy the scenery outdoors, but anytime you book will be magical.

Enjoy!

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The Green Card

I want you to know that Maria is getting her green card.

The very impossible, soul crushing reality that her husband and her children’s father was ripped from them– has a rip in the seam.  The darkness had a crack. The crack grew bigger with each little donation, as love poured in, pooling together, pushing back the darkness circling them.

Creating hope in a situation that was impossible.

The most common donation that came in was $25.  And we made it to $4,000.

$4,000!  I have no words, but I can tell you that many people shed tears, of hope, disbelief and joy.

She has already gotten her medicals and photo done.  We transferred money for the lawyer fee.  Some of the fees were HUGE, but the money was there.

There was enough left over for something that also has been impossible for years.  Something that the staff at her school has encouraged her to do, the principal, but she simply could not.  She did not have the funds, for years.

Her GED.  The principal of her school said that as soon as she gets it there is a job she will be moved up to with more pay for her family.

But the cost of the test was an unreachable $144.  So it was impossible.  Nothing could ever change.  This is the truth, steep reality.  Or was.

But I want you to know, that because of the donations she can get that, too.

She is getting her GED.

Actually, in the past couple days, two small local churches whom we had never heard of before gave a chunk of money.

And something that even for me I thought was unreachable, is now half way possible.  Once Maria has her Green Card in 6 months, she could then sponsor Carlos, and then he could pay his fees.  But that’s nothing we could really focus on, a hurdle too far for me to even think about.

But we have in the foundation half of the money he will need to get his own citizenship.  Something we were not fundraising for, or even thought possible.

I told the librarian at Maria’s school, “I’m sorry, but I think I’m going to cry.”

There was a ripple effect in many lives that I can’t really explain.  But I think that’s what love and generosity does.

The most common donation was $25.

It does not mean their lives are easy right now.  It is simply not.

But kind people, are giving them actual, real hope.  A real life.  This is their real life that was ripped from them, and YOU are putting it together.  You are the thread sewing up broken hearts and emptiness and actually bringing a father home and lifting people out of poverty.

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I could say many things, but I feel like I can’t.  There are no words enough that I could offer to tell you thank you.  And from me, I can’t even say.  I saw every donation that came in, from every person, from all political parties, background, ages, belief system.  I read all the kind words, how they wanted the daddy back home, and it effected my entire family, too.  My boys prayed their hearts out, and then the money came in.  They cheered, and cried.

“Can we just go to the store and buy him a drivers license?”  Elijah asked.

“We cannot, buddy, but I want to tell you that people listened about them.  And this world is full of light and love, and God’s love stretches deeper than we could ever imagine.  I want you guys to know that love is always worth it.”

This was the very first time I heard Elijah pray with his heart, to a living God, “God, please,” he was begging, really asking with the emotion in his heart, the heaviness.

I’m thankful, truly.

Please continue to pray for them.

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We’ll leave the donation link open so that if anyone wants to see him home, we honestly don’t have that much more to go, there is still a place to make it happen here.

 

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