Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

This happened 20 years ago today

Back when I was in high school – or maybe even middle school, I can’t remember the exact year – my uncle told me the grand plans he had for the Christmas gifts he was planning on giving his then-girlfriend. She had a habit of trying to figure out what all of her Christmas presents were before the Big Day. You might remember that I don’t like doing that. At all. Because I don’t like pretending that I’m surprised. Especially on Christmas. But that’s neither here nor there. She really liked figuring out her presents.

So my uncle decided to play a little trick on her. He had several packages of all different sizes wrapped in all different ways. And he had them out waaaay before Christmas. I don’t remember most of the presents. And I don’t remember if he had a “real” present to be revealed after unwrapping all of the other presents. But I do remember one of the diversionary gifts. It was a Hershey’s Kiss that was placed in a ring box and wrapped quite elegantly. Any outsider, including the recipient, who had been inspecting this gift for weeks, would easily think the box contained a ring.

I don’t know how this ruse played out with my not-yet aunt and uncle. They weren’t engaged at the time. They eventually did get engaged. And married. And they still are. So even if he juked her out with that gift, all was eventually right with the world.

Fast forward a few years…

Christy and I were celebrating our first Christmas as a couple. Of course, we had exchanged gifts the previous Christmas but neither one of us was willing to admit that we might have “those” kind of feelings for each other yet (and it took another five to six months for that to actually happen). So Christmas of ’96 was our first Christmas together. I had a few thoughtful gifts for her. But I also had an extra special gift. One that was inspired by my uncle.

So I placed a Hersey Kiss in a ring box and tried to wrap it as nicely as I could. I really didn’t think anyone would really think I was giving her an engagement ring. I mean, we’d only been dating since May. And I was out of town for half of that time. I thought it might have just been a funny little joke and that nobody – especially Christy – would think I was a real ring.

I was wrong.

We look back on it now and laugh. In fact, I started wrapping a Hershey Kiss in a ring box every Christmas after that. But it was no laughing matter when it happened. “That was mean,” she told me.

And it was mean.

OK. Maybe not mean mean. I had no ill-intent or malignant motive. I was just a bit…oh…tone deaf. And maybe even a bit myopic. It was not my finest moment.

Redemption?

On October 23, 1997, revisionist history would say that I redeemed myself. Or maybe revisionist history would say that I had the whole thing planned all along. A revisionist historian would argue that I knew what I was doing when I wrapped that Hershey Kiss in a ring box and made it look like I was going to pop the question that Christmas of 96.

Nope.

I lucked out. Couldn’t find the candy I wanted. Settled for Kisses instead. And thanks to a bag of bread that went along with  my bag of Kisses, we were able to have the perfect engagement on the perfect day with the perfect weather.

And that was 20 years ago today.

 

 

 

3 easy steps to a romantic steakhouse dinner at home

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Idahoan® Foods for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.

3 Easy Steps to a Romantic Steakhouse Dinner at Home #KingOfSoup #ad

When Christy and I were dating in college, one of our “go to” dates was to go to one of the local steakhouses and order potato soup. We would sit and talk for hours, munching on the endless rolls they would bring us and savoring every bite of the creamy soup. It was something we did quite often. We even went there for potato soup and rolls after I proposed to her (and almost dropped the engagement ring into the Doe River). I guess you could say that potato soup has a special place in our family’s story.

Since those college days, we have eaten at some pretty memorable restaurants over the years, including an airplane restaurant and chapel-turned-microbrewery. I’m sorry to say that we haven’t taken many opportunities to eat at fancy schmancy steakhouses, though. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve eaten at some pretty amazing and romantic establishments. But we really haven’t gone out like we used to. And we haven’t shared a bowl of potato soup in a long time. Continue reading 3 easy steps to a romantic steakhouse dinner at home

Just a boy and a dream about a motorcycle

When I was very young – probably five or six – my Uncle Don had a motorcycle. One day, I got to ride that motorcycle. This is the same Uncle Don who was me when I saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, for those of you who are keeping score. I don’t remember if I asked or if it was offered, but I do remember climbing onto the bike and flying around their yard as Uncle Don took us for a lap or two around their house.

The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that I was the one who came up with the idea and asked for a ride. I mean, come on. Who could say “no” to this adorable kid?

Me as a Ring Bearer at Aunt Patsy and Uncle Don's wedding

I mean, let’s be honest here. I was their favorite nephew at this point in my life. Of course, that might not be saying much. I might’ve still been their only nephew at that point, other than my brother. And since Kevin was so young at that point, I’ll just go ahead and announce that I was their favorite nephew. No need to take any votes or anything. Just look at that sweet, innocent face and tell me he wouldn’t be your favorite nephew, too.

Me and Vader

While the details of who came up with the idea might be a little bit fuzzy, I can tell you this: It was amazing. I know the rush that this guy felt. I was on Cloud Nine. In fact, I was still so excited about what had happened that I ambushed Grandmama when she arrived at their house. I told her everything about it.

Bzzzzzz!

Wrong answer.

I probably shouldn’t have said anything to Grandmama. She was not happy. And she let her son know about it. I still feel bad for getting Uncle Don in trouble with his momma. I hope he thought it was worth it. Because I sure did.

Fast forward some 35-ish years…

Weldu loves talking about driving. That really shouldn’t be a surprise. I mean, he’ll be turning sixteen soon. And while he talks about driving a car quite a bit, I get the impression that his real dream is to own a motorcycle. He’s even asked me to buy him one. Of course, he doesn’t want just any motorcycle. He wants the nice, shiny, super-expensive ones. My standard answer to that request?

“Get a job.”

Because that’s really the only way he’s going to be able to get any kind of bike like that. So he can add that to the list of things he wants to use his not-yet-existent income to pay for. He already has plans to by stuff like a new phone, but he’s also planning on living in Europe for a while and he’s planning a return trip to Ethiopia. And he wants to save up some money for that.

So he probably definitely isn’t getting a motorcycle any time soon. But that doesn’t mean he can’t dream about riding one. Right? And if he could ride one? Well, that would just be fantastic now, wouldn’t it?

Enter Uncle Don. Again.

While we were in Evansville over the weekend, we helped Uncle Don move some things into storage. While we were loading the trailer, I showed Weldu Uncle Don’s bike. I told him he should ask Uncle Don if he would take him for a ride after we were done moving everything.adjusting-weldus-motorcycle-helmet

It took a little coaxing, but he did eventually ask him. And when the moving was done, we grabbed a helmet for Weldu and away they went.

weldu-and-uncle-don-leaving-on-a-motorcycle weldu-and-uncle-don-after-their-motorcycle-ride

Considering the amount of grief Uncle Don got from Grandmama about my magical motorcycle ride, there was some discussion about whether to show Christy the pictures from the ride or not.

weldu-and-uncle-don-on-a-motorcycle

I’m not going to keep something like this a secret. Weldu needed to be able to share the excitement of this moment with his mom. So of course I told Christy about the whole thing.

Or did I…?

 

R is for Rainy Season

nature-plant-leaf-rain

Here in Indiana and the majority of the continental United States (except maybe the southwest and southeastern corners), you can generally expect to experience four seasons throughout the year. Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. That’s how it goes.

OK, considering the fact that it’s the middle of May and we’ve had several days that were 15 degrees colder than an average day, one could argue that Spring hasn’t been much of a season this year. But you get the point. As a rule, there are four seasons. And Winter is drastically different from Summer.

In Ethiopia? Sure, there’s Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, but there’s another season that makes a huge impact on people’s lives.

Rainy season.

I haven’t been in-country during the rainy season. We were there shortly after the rainy season when we first visited Ethiopia in September of 2009. And Christy happened to be there at the beginning of the rainy season last year. She said some of the roads were already starting to wash out and the serious raining hadn’t even happened yet.

The heaviest rains apparently happen in August and sometimes into September (in Addis, anyway). The rains are so heavy that the Ethiopian government traditionally shuts down during the month of August. And sometimes this even goes into September. The roads are that unreliable during this time.

It happens like clockwork. And the people of Ethiopia have adapted to it. Because that’s what we do. When we can’t change the situation, we find the pattern and adapt to it.

Perhaps this is what the Teacher meant in the book of Ecclesiastes. And if Solomon was really the author,* wouldn’t it be interesting if he had the Queen of Sheba and the seasons of her kingdom in the back of his mind when he composed this poem. It’s unlikely (or maybe even impossible), I know. But the point remains. There’s a time for everything and everything has its time. It’s up to us to make the most of the time that we’ve been given so we can live life for the purpose we were created to fulfill.

To every thing there is a season

So what season is your life in right now? What can I do to encourage you?

*I know tradition says that Ecclesiastes was penned by Solomon. Many scholars dispute that claim. Does it really matter who wrote it? No. Its message is still inspired and profitable. Let’s focus on more important things.

Chocolate covered peaches, Coca-Cola, and a Date-iversary

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareMemories #CollectiveBias

Happy Date-iversary #ShareMemories #ad

Music. It has such a powerful connection in our lives. As a recovering Band Geek, I really shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve known this since high school. Music is powerful. When you hear a few words or a couple of notes from a song and you’re instantly transported to another time, another place. It evokes strong memories. Some songs can make you cry. Others can make you dance like nobody’s watching. This Summer, Coca-Cola™ has tapped into the almost mystical connection we have with music by adding song lyrics to their bottles, inviting all of us to “Share a Coke and a Song.”

Share a Song Bottles #ShareMemories #ad

Twenty years ago this month, I was smitten. I’m still smitten, but everything was all brand-new in May of 1996. After an entire school year of pursuing her, I finally gathered up enough nerve to ask Christy out on a date. I don’t know what I was nervous about. For all practical purposes, we’d really been dating for the past several months. But nothing was ever “official.” So when the time came to actually ask her out, my heart skipped about three or four beats, my forehead gathered tiny drops of sweat, and my hands shook like they’d never shaken before. I was nervous.

Of course, she said yes. And so we went on our first official date twenty years ago this month. We didn’t have smartphones back then, so we don’t really have any photos to document the event. But I promise you, it was a memorable evening. We did the traditional date night: dinner and a movie. I honestly don’t remember what we ate, but I remember talking to Christy with such ease and comfort that it already felt like we’d known each other for years. It was an amazing dinner. Then we went to the movie. It was the animated one about a boy and a big-huge peach. It was…

well… Continue reading Chocolate covered peaches, Coca-Cola, and a Date-iversary

“She’s NOT my girlfriend!”

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20 years ago today, I found myself walking through a field near Wilmore, Kentucky with a girl I had a HUGE crush on. A group of us from Milligan had made the trek from Tennessee’s fair eastern mountains to my friend, Scott’s, hometown. Scott lived a mere hop, skip, and jump away from the granddaddy of all Christian music festivals: Ichthus Music Festival. So we crashed at his house and spent the day Saturday listening to band after band after band. I honestly don’t remember many of the bands we listened to that day. We did get to hear Rich Mullins, which was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m pretty sure I listened to a band called The Choir. They had a really cool shirt with something that looked like a flying frog on it. I bought that and wore it until it literally fell apart.

VenueKings.comThat’s about it.

I’m sorry I don’t remember much about the bands. If you performed that weekend and I saw you, I’m sorry. I’m sure you were great. My attentions were kind of focused elsewhere. I couldn’t believe this girl wanted to hang out with me and walk around the festival with me and share a snack with me. We might have even held hands a time or two. I was in heaven.

Yeah, there were some awkward moments. We hadn’t exactly expressed our affections for each other yet, but everyone knew. Shoot, even one of the guys in one of the food trucks could tell. He told me I should buy some food for my girlfriend.

“She’s NOT my girlfriend!”

I snapped back at him. Yeah. Smooth move there, Casanova. They should’ve called me Rico Suave.

Me and Christy at Milligan

In spite of my ineptitude, that girl still hung out with me after I shouted down that poor food on a stick salesman. And now, 20 years later, it’s a lot less awkward. I love hanging out with her and we don’t worry if anyone sees us hold hands. We’ve traveled the world together and we have four amazing kids. Yeah, it was awkward in Wilmore, Kentucky. But I’m incredibly thankful that she stuck around. We’ve been on an amazing journey together and I’m excited beyond words to discover the next chapter of our life together.

Self portrait me and Christy at Audio Adrenaline concert

Man….

20 years…

Has it really been that long? It feels like a lifetime and a blink of an eye all wrapped into one. And I can’t believe I get to share it all with her every day for the rest of my life.

E is for Eyes

I see Africa - Katie Bradley
‘I see Africa’ by Katie Bradley. She has some amazing artwork available at her Etsy Store.

The first thing I noticed when I finally met Christy? Her eyes. They were intoxicating. I couldn’t get enough of them. I found myself trying to sneak a peek into her eyes from across the room, making the most of every opportunity. I wanted to know more and more about the soul residing behind those windows. They were so beautiful. They still are.

There’s something truly captivating about a beautiful pair of eyes.

And I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Ethiopian eyes in particular that is unlike any other eyes. Words cannot describe what makes them unique. But they’re most certainly unique. And remarkable. And beautiful.

Don’t you think?

Then I watched God move a mountain. Again.

A “moved mountain” in Durame, Ethiopia

This adoption journey has been quite an emotional roller coaster with many unforeseen twists and turns. There might have even been a corkscrew or two thrown in there for good measure.

And it ain’t over yet.

But that’s OK. It’s kind of par for the course when it comes to international adoption. I’d imagine domestic adoption is a similar roller coaster ride.

Christy finally met “W” face-to-face. It’s been great for the soul and I hope that it will continue to warm his heart after she returns to the States.

Jeremiah 29:11. I’m sorry you had to wait so long…but I am so thankful God blessed us with you.

A photo posted by Christy Ooley Todd (@ooleytodd) on

Two more trips are required before he comes home with us. Sometime in the Fall, I hope to be able to meet “W” for the first time. During my stay in Ethiopia, I will appear before a judge and declare that yes, he is the child we’ve been trying to adopt. If all goes according to plan, “W” will then be declared our son in the eyes of the Ethiopian government. Then I’ll return home shortly after that court date. A few weeks later, we should have an appointment with the US Embassy in Addis. Christy and I will fly to Ethiopia, meet with the Embassy, and bring “W” home after that. Hopefully that will happen before Christmas of this year.

That’s the way things are supposed to happen. That’s the way the timeline generally goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how it happens for us. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t happen that way, either. Because here’s what we’ve learned during this journey: God is writing this story. We are not. And the Author is going to weave this story together in whatever way He sees fit.

In high school, I wanted to do something “big” for God. I never knew exactly what it was, but I was going to shock the world with the gospel. So I kept searching for that big thing I could “do” for Jesus. I don’t think I was wrong in my desire. I might have been a little misguided in my approach. But hey, I was a teenager. I think we all were a little misguided as teenagers, weren’t we?

For I know the plans I have for you bracelets

This desire to “do” something big for God continued into my preaching years more than a decade later. I firmly believe that God can work miracles. I’ve seen them happen. It was my hope and prayer that I could somehow put God on stage and allow the congregation to see what God had done. It was almost as if I was expecting Him to perform some great act so I could shine the spotlight on Him.

Again, not a bad desire. But maybe the wrong approach. After all, God is God. He doesn’t have to perform a miracle in order for us to shine the spotlight on Him. He is worthy of worship because He Is who He Is. And that’s enough.

Then we saw God move a mountain.

God orchestrated things in such a way that He provided for Mihret’s adoption in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.

So when we started pursuing “W,” I kind of expected things to work out in a similar way. I mean, that was a pretty cool story the way everything was woven together so perfectly.

But that organization didn’t award us a grant this time. No worries, I thought. There are other opportunities. So we applied for more grants. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We had the yard sale that was hugely successful. But it wasn’t enough to cover the rest of the fees.

So we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

Then things started to get a little…oh, what’s the word?….tense…around here. If Christy was really going to make this trip before the courts closed in Addis and school started here, we were going to have to figure out a way to cover the rest of the fees and travel costs. Maybe we were going to have to make this thing work on our own.

Then it happened. God moved mountains.

Not only did God move the mountains, He obliterated them. He caused them to melt like wax.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord Psalm 975

We were confident that God was going to use the matching grant from Hand in Hand to make a big dent in the need. But we didn’t know how much was actually going to be donated. There was still a lot of uncertainty. And maybe some doubt.

But the donations that were contributed to the matching grant were over the amount necessary.

Then we started getting notifications of approval for grants that I had totally forgotten about. And I’d definitely forgotten that we’d applied for their assistance. But they started sending in money.

And the next thing I knew, everything was paid for. The agency fees. Christy’s plane ticket. Even the in-country travel fees. Everything was covered within a matter of days.

Yes, God is in the mountain moving business.

As I sat and watched the whole thing unfold, I started to realize something. Sometimes “doing” something big for God simply means being obedient and stepping out in faith. You do what you’re supposed to, planting seeds as you go along the way. But in the end, you sit back and watch God do what you couldn’t even possibly imagine what would be done.

All week, I’ve been humming this song. It makes sense when you look back on the events of the last few weeks. It starts at the 5:58 mark…

God is writing a story, friends. And it is bigger than any of us even realize.

If you get a sense that God is calling you to “do” something, then go do it. By all means, do.it. But if you think God is calling you to go and watch and listen, then do that. Watch how He works. He’ll let you know when it’s time for you to do your part. Because He’s already at work. He’s already telling the story.

 

7 must-have apps for international travel

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #Tips4Trips #CollectiveBias

7 Must-Have Apps for International Travel #Tips4Trips #ad #cbias

As mentioned earlier, a lot of moving pieces finally came together at just the right time in just the right way in order for Christy to be able to meet “W,” the teenage boy we are in the process of adopting. Late Sunday night/early Monday morning, I drove Christy to the airport. Nearly 18 hours later, she landed in Ethiopia. There were times where I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to pull the whole thing together. With my full time job, Christy’s responsibilities at her school, and taxiing the kids to and from sports practices, church activities, and camp, it just felt like too daunting of a task to get together all of her necessities plus a bag full of donations in less than two weeks’ time. I honestly don’t think we could have done it without our unlimited talk, text, and data/web from Walmart Family Mobile.

Ethiopia or Bust #Tips4Trips

If you’re looking for the lowest priced unlimited plans with access to a network that covers over 280 people, Walmart Family Mobile is the place you should look first. Their Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data service plan starts at $29.88 a month for the first line. In addition to unlimited talking and texting, you also get access to up to 1G of 4G LTE data per month. Plus, they have a variety of phones available at some pretty incredible prices, including the Alcatel One Touch Pop Astro for only  $64.88.

Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to this link or your local Walmart for current pricing.

#Tips4Trips Store Collage at Walmart

While we’ve taken several vacations in the States, I think it’s safe to say that we’re no world travelers. And we definitely haven’t made a habit of jet-setting around the globe. So when it was finally decided that Christy was going to make this trip by herself, life became a bit more hectic. And life was already hectic with the kids’ activity schedules.

We had travel agents to call. And social workers to call. And our adoption agency to call. We had to make sure my work schedule was arranged in such a way that I could be home as much as possible. We had doctors to call. We had family to contact. We had to collect items – diapers, wipes, educational supplies, DVDs – that we were going to donate to the Care Center. The to-do lists kept piling up, adding more and more chaos to this whirlwind.

You know what we didn’t need during this mad rush to get everything done and ready for Christy to get on a plane? A phone service that dropped all of my calls. Or a phone that was so slow that it would be easier to send documents via passenger pigeon or the Pony Express. Been there. Done that. Not going back.

Ever.

Luggage and phone at the airport #Tips4Trips

That’s what I love about using Walmart Family Mobile. I don’t have to worry about wonky Internet connection. And I can be confident that I’ll be able to have an actual conversation on my phone without worrying about how many minutes I’m using. That’s pretty important when you’re in a time crunch.

And the phones are pretty cool, too.

In preparation for this great journey, I discovered some pretty cool apps. I think these are some tools that every traveler should have in their digital suitcase. They’re very helpful. And they’re free, although some can be enhanced with in-app purchases.

7 must-have apps for international travel:

Android Apps SmartTraveler #Tips4Trips

SmartTraveler

Provided by the U.S. State Department , SmartTraveler gives a plethora of information about countries around the globe, including local customs and laws, political climate, and the location of the U.S. embassy. It also keeps you up to date on travel alerts and warnings that have been issued by the State Department.

 

Android Apps iBlueButton #Tips4TripsiBlueButton

You never plan on having a medical emergency while traveling. But just in case the unforeseen does happen, it’s a good idea to have iBlueButton. It keeps all of your medical information and medical history in one place so you can access it with just the swipe of your finger.

 

Android App Google Hangouts #Tips4TripsGoogle Hangouts

This was pre-installed on our Androids, and although it’s gotten some negative press in the past, Christy and I have been using it to communicate over the the thousands of miles between us. You can use it to send text messages. You can also use it for free video calls via wifi, too.

Christy checking the phone at the airport #Tips4Trips

Android Apps iTranslate #Tips4Trips

iTranslate

With over 90 languages available on this app, you can translate words and phrases in a matter of moments. With an extensive dictionary library, you’ll be able to discern contextual clues and dialects. It’s easy to use and essential for a world traveler.

 

 

Android App Google Goggles #Tips4TripsGoogle Goggles

Let’s say you’re overseas and you see a landmark some 30 miles away but you don’t have any idea what it is. It looks important, but that’s about all you know. With Google Goggles, you can take a picture and search the web with that image. This app has some serious potential.

 

Android App FlightAware #Tips4TripsFlightAware

FlightAware was the perfect app for me to use while Christy was up in the air. No matter where I went that day, I could check the app and track her flight. And if you’re using it while traveling, you’ll be able to keep up to date on the flight schedule and which terminal you have to go to. That’s amazingly helpful if you have a short layover.

 

Android App XE Currency #Tips4TripsXE Currency

You can keep up to date on the exchange rates with this app. It’s a great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your currency.

It’s also helpful if you’re trying to plan and budget your trip.

 

There are so many apps available that are related to travel. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones. Now that Christy’s begun her journey, I can start planning for my trip to Ethiopia, which should happen within the next few months.  What apps should I add to my list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

#Tips4Trips Phone and suitcase