We started as a boy and a girl pursuing our love and our God....here is the story of our journey to become the family we were intended to be.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Faith

This post could also be titled "The Exhaustion", "The Never-Ending Journey", "The End of My Rope", or a plethora of other titles that would be both witty and true. I am tired. So very, very, to-the-bones tired. It feels like I have been fighting and praying and trying-to-live-life-while-ignoring-the-giant-thorn-in-my-side for so long now. We are not walking a path that is foreign to adoptive parents all over this world. Those parents who have also been called into the trenches of adoption will probably fist pump the air and yell "yes!" with the laments of my body and heart and soul that are being put into words here...assuming that the words I am writing will make sense despite the haze of exhaustion I am writing thru. It does not matter if you step into the fight for the lives of orphans, soon to be sons and daughters, with a head full of knowledge or a history of having done it before or a heart that you feel has been fully braced against the attacks of the unknown. It does not matter because there is no way to prepare. Fighting for the life of a child is not a pretty task. We have chosen to not only let our hearts walk around outside of our bodies (as is the case with all parents and children)....we have chosen to have absolutely ZERO control over those hearts. Not only are our hearts walking outside of our bodies...but we are unable to clothe them or feed them or protect them or soothe them or hold them or teach them or wipe their noses or read to them or pray with them or hear their breathing or even to have any control over simply bringing them home. As parents, we like to live under the allusion that we have some control over what happens to our children. Ultimately, we have no actual control over the hurts and illnesses they experience....we cannot always stop them from running out in front of a car or falling in a pool....and we certainly do not get to stop tumors from growing or remove ravaging cancer cells. Ultimately....where the big things are concerned....we have no control. So we focus on what we do have control of. We focus on healthy diets and bicycle helmets and vitamins and books at bedtime and bandaids and hugs and kisses and prayers and words of wisdom....because they matter and because our children matter more than anything else on this earth. Because they are our heart and the thing that matters most is that they are protected and loved. The need to protect them and love them and take care of them is basic....it is overwhelming and it is necessary to the mental, physical, and spiritual health of parents. They are the most important part of us...they are our heart...and if we are not meeting their needs we just plain are not meeting our own and we are not whole...we are not healthy...and we are not well. The ability to meet these needs is stripped when you are adopting. For 6 months, my only links to the part of my heart living in Ethiopia were 12 pictures and 3 emails from other families. The ability to meet any of his needs did not exist. For the last 3 months, my only links to that part of my heart are the pictures I took of him and the memories I made of his smile and his laughter and his sweet heart. I have spent 12 hours with my son in 9 months. 12 hours in 9 months. I assure that is not enough time. I assure you that this is no where close to the time needed to even begin to meet the most basic of his needs. It is impossible for me to be well at this point in life. It seems simple to me....a part of my heart is completely outside of my control....I cannot care for it in even the most simple ways....and therefore I cannot rest. If I cannot rest then I cannot be well. It is that simple. Part of me wants to apologize for not being well....the same part that thinks that I must not be praying enough or rejoicing enough or noticing the gifts in my life enough if I cannot be well. But I am not made to ignore the missing part. God created the heart of a mother....and He is perfectly aware that while I can rejoice in the beauty that is present, that beauty is not meant to be able to fill the missing part. I pray that my words help convey to those of you who are not in the adoption world (but who love those of us who are) why we are such a mess as we walk thru this process.
This is where my title for this post comes in...."The Faith"....because that is what it all comes down to. The faith that my God will sustain me. The faith that my God holds my little boy in His hands...and that He will not leave or forsake either of us. The faith that God has never shown himself to be anything but faithful and true...and that He will continue to be those things. The faith that we have been led down this path and that it is for a reason. The faith that God has placed Tamirat in our lives and our hearts and that He will see His work completed. The faith that when words fail me and my prayers have been reduced to saying "please, please, please" all day long....words are not needed. I will have faith that He will sustain me. I will have faith that He cares and that He is involved. I will remember how faithful He showed himself to be yesterday and I will not lose hope for tomorrow.
Hope is what it all boils down to. Every time we receive news that is hard to hear, I cry.....and I cry and I cry and I cry some more....and I lean on my husband and on the amazing friends and family in my life....and then I gather hope around me like a blanket. My God has shown himself faithful time and time again. He has yet to let me fall. He has yet to fail me. He has yet to close a door and not open a window (resorting to cliches now...I need to go to bed!). And so I have hope. Hope is so very important in being able to dance thru the day. I am surrounded by beauty today and I have hope that there will be even more tomorrow.
For almost 5 weeks now our paperwork has been sitting at the US Embassy in Addis. They request something and we hope that we will be cleared to pick up our son after it is turned in. Then a week later, they request something else.....and on and on. They are doing their jobs and their is no major cause for alarm....but I am feeling done. On Wednesday night, while we sleep, Tamirat's aunt will be interviewed by the embassy. She testified before the Ethiopian court in July and I can only imagine that being called to the city for a second time has to be difficult for her. Please pray for her journey. Pray that she would find strength and peace. Pray that her words would be clear and that the verdict would be favorable. I hope to post in a couple of days that we have cleared the last hurdle to our son and are booking plane tickets. Please keep us in your hopes and prayers....we need them :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Gift

There is so much running thru my mind right now. At least once a day I think about blogging....I run thru everything in my mind and my heart and I contemplate what I would put down on paper and what I want to share and put words to. There is so much. I have debated answering common questions (this one will probably still happen in the near future), talking in depth about the struggle of having a child 7000 miles away, and listing all of the words in the Bible and praise songs that I hear every day that reassure me that my Lord can and will "calm my raging seas". But none of these are what I am going to put on paper tonight.
You see....I have been thinking about 2 important people alot lately....the birth mothers of my sweet children. I will never know either of these women. Mia and Tamirat have different stories that belong to them. Their mothers' have different stories that I will never know, for different reasons, the details of. And yet, there are very few people on this earth with whom I am more intimately entwined. These are women who carried their precious children in their wombs for 40 long weeks. These are the women who prayed over and worried about and cared for, as best they could, the children that I get to call my own for the rest of their lives. They are "mother", "mom", "mommy", and "enat" in every sense of the word. Tamirat's name means "miracle"....that was not an accident on his mother's part. He was and is the best part of her....just as he will become a part of the best part of me. Mia was not named Rahel by her mother....which is why we changed her name to Mia Rahel. Mia means "God's gift"....not an accident on my part. Each of my adopted children has 2 mothers. While I might, at times, for the sake of clarity, refer to Mia or Tamirat's other mother as "birth mom" or "first mom"....the truth is that they are just "mom"...exactly as I am just "mom". Our roles do not need to be separated. I have been asked alot of questions on our adoption journeys....some of them I love to answer and some are so insensitive they make my jaw drop. I think that I will answer some of these questions in a later post for those of you trying to learn about adoption, but I bring them up at this point for one reason. For the most part, I think that I manage to navigate questions, even insensitive ones, with alot of grace. I try not to let much get me riled or upset.....but there are two words that are used alot by even the most sensitive of people when talking about or asking about adoption that make me cringe inwardly. Those words are "own" and "real"....as in "do you have any children of your own" and "are they your real children" or "what happened to her real mom". I think when written in black and white the problem is pretty obvious. All of my children are my "own"....not just the biological ones. I am my childrens' "real" mother and they are my "real" children whether or not I gave birth to them. These questions diminish both my role as their adoptive mother and the role their biological mothers played in their lives. We are both real and the children belong to both of us. It is a hard concept and I get that it is not easy to wrap our minds around such a duality. But the truth is we do not need to be separated. We are both just simply "mom". She gave them life and I will get to help them navigate it. She soothed their first tears and I will soothe all of the ones that have yet to come. She prayed over her child and protected her/him for as long as she was able.....that is my job for all of the years yet to come. People ask about the ethical questions of international adoption. About whether children would be better off in an orphanage or in a foster care situation in their own country with the culture they were born into. I am not here (at this moment, in this post) to delve into all of the intricacies of this question. Nor do I want anyone to walk away from this post with the impression that I think adoption is always the best option. Do not think that I will not strive to give my resources...including my time, money, and sweat....for the rest of my life to try to preserve families in Ethiopia and around the world so that more orphans are not created. But hear me say this....loud and clear....there is no mother on earth who does not want her child to have a mother. If the option for my child were an orphanage in America or a mother somewhere else, I would not hesitate to choose a mother. Mothers (and fathers...but I am talking from my perspective tonight) are God's plan for children. They just are. We are intimately tied, myself and the women who gave birth to 2 of my greatest blessings.....forever.
I want to make one more point in this post. People I meet are curious about the resilience of adopted children. We have all heard the horror stories of children who have acted out their grief and trauma in horrifically violent ways...biological children do that, too, sometimes, by the way...but there are 1000s upon 1000s of stories of former orphans who have become sons and daughters again who have managed to overcome and thrive. Tamirat has seen and endured more in his little life than I will ever have to cope with in my own. I cannot even fathom circumstances at any point in my life, past, present or future, that would paint the portrait of existence that this little boy has lived. And yet, he smiles. Not only does he smile.....but he laughs and jokes and runs and climbs and plays tricks. He is resilient. His spirit is beautiful. He has the ability to feel and to cry and he has mourned in the past and will do so in the future. Here me say this - I DO NOT HAVE ON BLINDERS. I KNOW THAT THERE WILL BE GRIEF TO WORK THRU IN TAMIRAT'S LIFE. I KNOW THAT IT IS NOT GOING TO ALL BE PEACHES AND ROSES. HE HAS LOST ALOT AND WILL LOSE MORE WHEN HE IS TAKEN FROM THE ONLY SIGHTS, SMELLS, SOUNDS AND PEOPLE THAT HE HAS EVER KNOWN. IT IS NOT ALWAYS GOING TO BE EASY OR FUN. What I want people to take from this post, however, is this....it is a luxury in this country that we are able to mourn the loss of a child or the loss of a parent. If I lost a child, no one would be surprised if I curled into a ball for months. My friends and family would surround me. They would feed me and encourage me and let me cry. They would try to coax me back from the brink, knowing that I could not stay there forever and would eventually have to move forward. But they would understand the grief. When I lose my parents....an event that I hope is far, far, far in the future....I will be allowed to grieve and to cry...everyday for a year if that is what I need. People will understand when I am not myself and when I am not functioning the best at work. It is not this way in all parts of the world. 1 in 5 children die in infancy in Ethiopia. Wrap your mind around that....1 out of every 5 babies is expected to die before their first birthday. It is normal....it is a part of life. Death did not surprise Tamirat. He has seen alot of it. It is normal. Parents and siblings and neighbors and babies die all the time where he is from. We don't know what it is like to have dirty water and no access to medicine. We don't know what it is like to be given a day to cry over the death of our baby or our mother and then move on. Please don't take it for granted. Please treasure that we are allowed to value life the way that we are in this country....it is truly a luxury that many do not have. Do not wonder at my son's resilience...resilience is a way of life where he is from...and we could learn alot from him.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where to start.....

I feel like we are so very behind in the "updating people we love about our lives" category!! It has been a crazy few weeks!! I think I am going to write in categories :) The first important piece of information is that on June 9th ( I know...more than a month ago...BAD BAD BLOGGER!) we got the phone call we had been waiting for....about a courtdate in Ethiopia! We were told that we were to be in Ethiopia for court on Friday, July 15th. You read that right....we had exactly 5 weeks to plan a trip to the other side of the world. I will fill you in on all of the details about mundane words like "court" and "embassy" and "m.o.w.a" at the end of the post....but I am thinking that what everyone really wants to hear about might be our time with our soon-to-be-son!!
We left the US late on Monday the 11th and arrived in ET on the morning of Wednesday the 13th. Addis is 10 hours ahead of Colorado so we had a slight time change to adjust to! We had an hour or so to put our stuff down and shower before they came to pick us up. Truth be told, I had felt like throwing up for about 3 days straight. I was so nervous/excited/anxious/happy/sad (to be leaving the kiddos in CO) that my body combined all of those emotions together into a state of persistent nausea. Good times, good times. I still felt that way on the drive to Sele Enat (the orphanage where "T" currently lives)....although to be fair, the driving and fumes may have contributed some to that feeling at this exact moment in time....driving in Addis is NOT for the faint of heart. I have literally never seen anything remotely like it.....there are no lanes and 4 lanes of traffic will suddenly combine to 1, while at the same time avoiding hoards of people and herds of sheep and the occasional random donkey. It is a sight to see....but more on the driving later :) We were told by a man working for our agency that T had been asking every week for months when his mom and dad were coming....he said that he had been waiting anxiously to meet us. I know how he felt....this meeting had been a long time coming....the months of waiting have taken a toll on my heart and my mind. There have been days where I have felt simply weary for no apparent reason....and I know that it was the wait sitting heavily on my heart. We pulled up in front and waited at the gate. We waited anxiously while our driver held an animated conversation with the nanny who opened the door....out of their 3 minute conversation we caught his name and that's about it. We were led over towards the open door of a room and suddenly there he was. He came running out of the door with a huge grin on his face...and then he got shy. He had been sprinting and when he got to us he stopped and stepped back and his grin became more timid. I bent down and motioned him towards me. He came with his hands behind his back and his head down and he let me hug and kiss him. He looked at Nathan and then accepted his hug. He was sweet and shy and I am sure more than a little overwhelmed. All of the kids and their nannies were sitting on the bottom bunks covered in fleece blankets talking and singing.....it was way too cold (at 60 degrees) for playing outside, you see :) We followed T into the room and decided that a quick way to break the ice would be to begin handing out the goodies in our bag. We handed a bag of candy and bags of small toys to T one at a time and the nannies reminded him to say "thank you"....he would give a small bow, a tentative hug and offer a "thank you, mom" and "thank you, dad" that would melt my heart. And then he got to be the hero. He was the kid with the mom and the dad and the treats to share. It was a sweet moment for us to know that he knew that he was no longer alone. His parents were here. We had come just like he had been told we would. His sweet spirit became apparent immediately. We had been told that he loved cars and we should be sure to take hot wheels. He handed them all out immediately....and I mean ALL of them. This was par for the course. During the four days that we got to spend with him he kept the sweatshirt and the shoes that we gave him.....everything else he handed out immediately. He handed out every car, every piece of candy, every jump rope, every silly band, the hat we brought him, the necklace we brought him (which he got back out our urging....right before he started taking orders from the other kids for more necklaces....which we bought and brought with us the next day). So that was the first thing we learned about our boy....he has a generous heart and a sweet spirit. He was disturbed if he had something that the others didn't and immediately requested "more for everyone". He looked at his pictures quickly but the others wanted to look at them so he quickly gave away his album :) We got to spend about 3 hours a day for 4 days with our son. We spent our time playing soccer, climbing trees, eating, chasing, jumping rope, playing with cars, blowing up balls, and sitting quietly. If you were me, you also spent time playing lots of hand clapping games (you know...the ones with the rhymes and the intricate chants in Amharic that they wanted you to learn immediately) and getting your hair braided.....I will just say that braids DO NOT look nearly as good as me as they do on the Ethiopian girls....enough said.
Twelve hours. We got to spend a total of about twelve hours with our son. We learned that he is generous and that he has a sweet spirit. We learned that he is athletic and (unbelievably) good at soccer. We learned that he misses his cousins.....this one was heartbreaking. We learned that he does not like potatoes....which resulted in us being fed every potato to cross his plate that week :) We learned that he is funny and goofy....and my mother's heart was relieved to find that all he has seen and endured in his short life has not stolen his ability to be silly. He has friends and we saw that he is a good friend. He was worried about the kids who do not have parents and wants us to adopt them or find parents for them.....this was a hard one. FYI: I am on the hunt for parents for the sweetest 12-year-old boy in the world. T loves him and wants him to be adopted....just putting it out there. We learned he can be mischievious....should fit right in. He likes to play games on my phone....again.....he should fit right in!! He likes to run and play and he laughed when his dad messed up in soccer games :) He always wanted to be sure I was watching and cheering for him and would come find me if the little girls had monopolized my time for too long. He became comfortable with us and sought out hugs and kisses and praise. After that first day, he greeted us every morning with a running leap into our arms. He is tall and lanky. He's about the same size as Eli but probably 20 pounds lighter....tall and skinny that one. He has lost another tooth since the most recent picture we have of him. He has grown and changed so much over the last 6 months and I hate how much we have missed but cannot dwell on it. Saying good-bye was hard....impossible really. I can't really talk about it, yet....and I probably won't be able to until it is something in the past. At this exact moment it is still something that I can tangibly feel every minute and it just hurts. I can honestly say that I have never been so heartbroken. Leaving your child in an orphange is something no one should ever have to face....we need to remember that when speaking of birth families as well. The thing about pain is that we can't feel it anymore once it is behind us. We can remember it but God gave us the gift of not being able to actually feel it anymore....and even the memories can become more dull as time passes. I am still living in the pain...it is not in the past and it has not dulled, yet. Please forgive me if I seem on edge or if I can't articulate too many details about our trip that would not have happened without the support we have received from so many. Good-bye is too raw right now.
So....what does the future hold, exactly?? Several things have to happen before he can come home. A courtdate was the first in a series of important events. We went before the judge in Ethiopia and testified that we had met T and that we wanted him to be our son and that we were aware it was a done deal once she signed the papers. Unfortunately, we did not "pass" court....yet. There is an entity in Ethiopia known as MOWA (the Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs). They are the people who actually read our dossier (all of the paperwork that we compiled) and T's paperwork and make sure that everything is in order. They then write a letter telling the judge (who does not actually read our paperwork) that everything is in order and she should make a favorable ruling for our adoption. In order to pass court 3 things have to have happened.....birth family testimony (T's aunt came to court July 5th and gave her consent for the adoption...this was a huge prayer request answered), adoptive family testimony (this was the anti-climatic 2 minutes that we flew around the world for), and a MOWA letter has to be present. MOWA is having some internal issues (this has been going on since March) and they are way beind on their letters. Our letter will come....we just don't know when. And so we wait. We try to find peace and to be patient....but every day that passes is one more that T just knows we haven't come back for him. He has seen parents leave before and then come back but that only provides a marginal amount of comfort. As soon as our MOWA letter arrives, the judge will sign off on our case. And then we wait for our adoption decree and T's birth certificate and passport to be issued. Once we have those 3 pieces of paper, we can be submitted to the US Embassy and we wait for them to give us an appointment. At that point, I fly around the world again and bring our son home. So...in summation, what happens now....is alot of waiting. We think that our earliest actual shot at an embassy appointment is 7 to 8 weeks. A miracle could occur and it could be earlier....or that could be entirely too optimistic....but it is what we are hoping for. We will keep you posted :)
I also just want to re-iterate one more time exactly how grateful we are for all of the love and support we have received from all of you these past months. I do not have words to tell you how lifted up we have felt and how loved we have felt and how much we have needed that to get to this point. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will never forget the role that you all have played in giving us our son.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Dance

I am a reader. I read all kinds of books....it is an unusual day for me if I don't spend time immersed in a story. In case you are wondering how this is possible, I will just tell you that reading is usually the culprit behind the circles under my eyes. Stories feed me. They feed my mind and they relax me. My love of stories carries over into a love of movies, too...but the movie watching time (unlike the book reading time) has suffered greatly as my life has changed into that of a wife and a mother.
Anyway....why do I mention this?? Because my love of stories often lends itself to my thinking of life a bit like it is a movie or a book. In the quiet moments, I wonder about these things...what the soundtrack of the moment would be...what the stories of the mountains around me are...what the soil would murmur to me if it could...what tales the wind would tell if it spoke my language. I want to hear the stories of the world around me. I take stories to heart. Whenever I cry in movies or books, Nathan says "It's not real, you know." And without fail, I respond with "These things happen in real life...people experience them...even if these people are fictional...these hard things are real."
These things...the good and the bad...the stories of our lives and the things that we experience...they make up a dance of sorts. That is how I look at it. Like trees moved by the wind, we move and bend with the things that we experience. Sometimes we are moved by a gentle breeze and other moments bring a wind that blows so violently we duck our heads and hope that we are still standing when the storm passes. Garth Brooks says "we learn as we go...sometimes we lead and sometimes we follow"....but this dance of life is so much more than that. Not only are we moved by the wind around us, but by our own feet. We step forward and we step back. Sometimes we stumble and we are embarassed. Sometimes the person we dance with holds us up and sometimes we provide the support. We have glorious moves that make us want to shout in triumph and we fall sometimes when we least expect it. The music that surrounds us is fast and it is slow. We have moments where we move with ease and without thinking and moments where exhaustion is written on our faces and bodies so clearly that those watching cringe. Sometimes when we dance we are at peace and at other times we struggle to even hear the music. We are distracted by pain and heartache or busyness....and we stumble because we can't hear the notes. But they will come again. We are creatures who move. Given life by the breath of God into dirt. The soundtrack changes constantly....moment by moment....day by day....but always we move...always we are moved....and always we know that the dance will continue. In the hard moments when we stumble we know that "this too, shall pass." In the carefree moments when we seem to soar above the clouds we know that we will land again. The things that are constant never change....that we will always be moving, ebbing and flowing...that we need other people to dance with so that there is someone to catch us when we stumble....that the music that moves us is full of the notes of the past and the hope of the future....that as much as we are trying to enjoy the moment (and do occassionally accomplish getting lost in it), we are also creatures who anticipate the next step we will take because the unknown unsettles us. Our life is a dance, you see. We move thru the days both intentionally and without control of the wind that moves around us. Our life and our dance are filled with moments of regret and guilt that we have to learn to release so that they don't continue to affect our steps. We have to remember the moments of pain and of beauty while knowing that steps we take now are important in their own right. Look to the next step...but know that it will flow if you concentrate on where you are now. We were created in God's image...created for beauty and life....and that matters.
These are the things I think as I try not to be consumed by the wait of this adoption journey. There are moments where I feel suffocated and moments where I feel like I have fallen. It helps to remind myself that this a dance and that the next step will look different. There are moments when I try to let go and let the wind move me....or moments when I need to be held up....moments when I focus on the present and manage to enjoy a glorious step in the beauty that surrounds me....and moments when the missing piece feels like too much. But this life is a dance and a future surrounded by all of my children will come...and I know that there will be triumphant steps and crushing ones in that season of my dance, too.
It is my prayer for you, my friends, that the seasons of your life are filled with more beautiful moments than you can count...and that in the hard ones, you are able to let the wind move you and remember that a new step is only a moment away.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Fight

Here's the thing. I have realized that as a follower of Christ, I oftentimes wish that being obedient would be easy. I think that if I am called to something and step out in faith and obedience....then the details should fall into place. It should be easy. It should go well. I should be blessed with the ease of the process. But here's the thing....David still had to face the giant even though he had the faith to step onto the battlefield. Being obedient and leaving the tent was not enough....he still had to step into the war....still had to battle the giant....and still had to keep the faith that the Lord was behind him. I was told a couple of weeks ago by a woman I met in passing (who I liked very much, lest this sound like a judgment) that she would love to adopt if it were easier. I know where she is coming from.....I wish that it were easier. Wish it alot actually :) But the truth is that the battle for children's lives is just that....a battle. I read a quote on a friend's blog recently from "Adopted for Life" by Russell Moore. He said "Adoption is not charity, it is war". Amen. We are engaged in a battle. We are fighting a war. And as much as I wish that this were easy....as much as I wish I could sleep well....as much as I wish that my heart were not on the line....and as much as I wish less time and less energy and far fewer tears were involved in this process....that is not the way it goes.
The lives and hearts and futures of children are on the line. Living, breathing, beautiful children. And the devil wants them. He wants to win. He wants for me to roll over and decide that it is too hard. He wants for us to decide that it isn't worth it. He wants for us to question our calling because it isn't easy. And sometimes he almost wins. Almost. For we hold knowledge ....knowledge that the saints who have gone before us fought. The Bible and history books are full of stories of anguish and sacrifice coupled with faith. I have the benefit of seeing the battles fought in the past. We hold faith. Faith that we will not be abandoned. Faith that we do not fight alone. Faith that sometimes we are called to peace and sometimes we are called to do battle.
And I hear it...the voice of truth. Lyrics that resonate with me: "For the voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says do not be afraid. The voice of truth says this is for My glory." So when the devil sneaks in and says "The calling isn't true. You shouldn't have to do battle....it is too hard. His life isn't worth the fight....maybe he isn't meant to be yours"......I will tell the devil that I will fight.....and I will fight long and hard so I hope he is ready. It is my son he wants to take....and that simply is not an option.
It has been a tough week. You may have gleaned that from this post so far :) Last week I got the news that my fingerprints had been rejected by the FB!...again....for the second time. Before you can ask...no, I do not work with concrete and no, I am not 100 years old. For some reason my fingerprints just suck. So today I drove all the way to Denver to have them done for the 3rd time. The impact of this little delay on our adoption, you may ask? Nathan's fingerprints have been done for 5 weeks now and mine will be at least 1 more week if everything goes perfectly. So this has been a 6 week delay. A 6 week delay is not the end of the world....the major problem? 6 weeks most likely means the difference between a court-date in July (before courts close) and having to wait until late October (at the earliest) when courts re-open. And that, my friends, feels like an eternity when your child is living in an orphanage. On top of it, Ethiopia has announced some slow downs in the court date realm in the last 2 weeks....and we can't even get in line. I am frustrated and I am tired and I have shed alot of tears and done alot of tossing and turning. But the first 2 paragraphs of this post reflect where I have arrived. The above words describe where I have landed. We have been encouraged by sweet words from friends in the last week and they have meant so much. We will stand and we will fight.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The boy....

For those of you who have not been here for the day-to-day, nitty-gritty, I want to share some of the details about what God has done the last two months! First, I should explain that I am not allowed to share any pictures or identifying details..."T" isn't officially ours and there are rules about sharing set up to protect the kiddos! I can't show you his picture (yet!) but his story has already begun to be interwoven with ours...and THAT I don't have to wait to share!
At the end of November, I felt, for the first time in a year, the urge to look at the waiting children's portion of our agency's website. I had not looked at the waiting list or even thought about it for almost a year....since Mia came home. The list came to the forefront of my mind and heart and I looked and I prayed...and that was that. I looked everyday for a week or two. There was one face that struck me everyday. There were probably a dozen or so beautiful faces on that page at the time....but everyday my eyes were drawn to the face of the little boy who was the third from the left on the top row. Every time I looked, I would scroll thru all 6 of his pictures a dozen times.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I did 2 things to quiet my spirit. I emailed our coordinator at IAN and asked about him and then (notice the order :)?) I mentioned to Nathan that I had asked about him. I got a quick reply back from IAN that told me he had not been referred and no one had even looked at his file....and I got a quick reply back from Nathan that was something along the lines of "no way, no how, not now....you are crazy". I am paraphrasing, but that is the general gist!
The truth is that there was a tug in my spirit at that point, but it had not transferred to my head or to my heart. My faith had been stretched to the max when we adopted Mia....an infant, a baby, a child with no memory of where she had been or what she had been thru. All of the questions about time and money and disruptions came rushing back and I reassured myself that Nathan was right....we were good....we were comfortable....we would NOT go there.
And yet, as discomforted as my heart and mind were, my spirit was more so....it would not rest, it would not let me find peace, it would not be quieted. At the beginning of January (3 weeks or so after our initial conversation) I told Nathan that I thought we were supposed to be praying about adopting again. I could not rest and I could not fight it anymore....so I asked him to pray....I told him that I thought we were supposed to be seeking. And my sweet husband (probably already knowing what was coming) smiled at me, sighed, and agreed. It took about 2 weeks....maybe not even that long. I can't remember what precipitated the moment. I can't remember if it was a sermon or a song or a book quote. But I do remember the moment. I looked at him and I said, "You know we are supposed to adopt again, right?" His reply? "I know." That was it..."I know" and our fate was sealed. We had a brief discussion where we decided to start saving and praying and to move forward "in a year or so". That was the timing that worked for us, we figured :) My spirit was comforted and quieted and at peace......for about 5 days. 5 days is how long it took for the Lord to overwhelm me.
My passion....it is what He uses to get us there, remember? This time was no different. His face was everywhere. I saw it when I closed my eyes. I saw it in the faces of my biological sons. I saw him all day long as I tried to go about my day. The specific face of that little boy who was the third from the left on the top row was everywhere I went, all day long. I had put that face out of my mind for more than a month and suddenly, it was everywhere. I went to the computer and tried to pull up the waiting child page. The password had changed and I panicked. That was Saturday, January 15th. On Monday I called IAN and asked for the password....and there he was. I called back and asked about him and was told that somebody had been reviewing his file but that they had had it for 2 weeks and hadn't acted. They would check into it and let me know.
Nathan had told me I could call and ask for the file but "T's" face wasn't on his mind constantly...he was going along with it because he recognizes when I am half-hearted about something and when I will probably let it go. This didn't strike him as a "letting-go" moment in our lives, so he let me run. For 2 days we talked and discussed and prayed and wrestled about a decision we may or may not have to make. I told myself it would be so much easier if the referral had already been accepted. The answers to my questions would be taken care of. I wouldn't have to decide: Could we handle 4 children? Would changing our birth order be ok? Would an older child disrupt our family too much? Would we be able to handle the financial burden? Would our time be stretched too thin? None of them would matter....it would be over and I could rest and be free and go back to my simple life.
And then, on Wednesday afternoon, I got a call from our coordinator and she said "I have a file for you to review". My reaction???? Tears of relief. Tears filled my eyes and spilled over and the tension I did not know I had been holding in my heart broke. Relief washed over me with coolness and cleansing.....and I was shocked. I was relieved?!?!?!?! There was no doubt in my mind what my emotions were....everything was clear....the questions did not matter....he could be mine....and I was relieved.
I came home to talk to Nathan and he told me to give him 2 days to think and pray without pestering him. As if I would ever pester. That night he asked me several questions about "T" and each time he asked me about "our son" :)
By Thursday we decided we needed to talk to our families. We were going to blind-side them. This had all been private, and fast, and passionate. We could feel the calling. We could feel the rightness. We could feel the peace. But we knew that our families would be caught off guard and at square one. We braced ourselves. We fielded questions. We talked and we listened. We were reminded once again of how we have been blessed. Although there were lots of questions and surprised reactions and some bafflement involved.....we never felt unsupported or unloved. We are so blessed to have family and friends who understand us and understand our God and who are willing to walk beside us. They will also choose "T". They will love him and protect him and he will be part of them because he will be part of us. There is no greater gift on this earth.
We prayed over the weekend....but we also plotted how to add a bed:) and on Monday, January 24th, we officially accepted the referral of "T". He will be our son and a co-heir with his brothers and sister. He will become a part of our lives and our hearts and our journey.
Who is he? On paper he will be 6 in April, but he is probably older. This makes him our oldest child by 8 months. He is beautiful. His hair is cut short and he has a scar on his forehead and 2 on his head. His eyes shine. His smile is genuine. In the first pictures we have of him he had just lost his 2 front teeth....now they have come in. He is the same height as Eli, but lankier. He has long fingers and knobby knees. He has his arm around another kid in most pictures we see. He has candy or a balloon or a toy in his mouth in 2/3 of the pictures we have of him! In the videos of him singing, he seems to be attentive but quiet. He has experienced more in his little lifetime than I can imagine. He is a child who deserves to be loved and protected. His life deserves to be defended and fought for.
Our journey will be long and we will try to show faith and steadfastness at every turn....but those things will be easier said than done. This adoption, like all adoptions, is not all sunshine and rainbows. I will share the murky parts as we go...because we want to be honest. Thank you for caring and thank you for listening.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One Year Later.....

.....anybody surprised to hear from us?? I have been a horrible blogger this year (obviously) and had actually come to the point where I had decided that I probably needed to delete the blog and just let it go.........and then everything changed. I had originally planned on sharing our thoughts and experiences and hearts for adoption over the past year on a regular basis. This obviously did not happen....at all. We held Mia for the first time last year on January 24th. So much has happened since then. My plan (and you know how those can change) is to update much more regularly (really, even once a year would be more regularly at this point), and to look back at the past year with hindsight as we share our future with all of the hope and faith we are using to move forward in our life together....pretty sure this is a major run-on sentence and although I am a stickler for grammar and punctuation, it seems that I believe typing on the blog gives me some type of artistic freedom.
So, what prompted the change of heart, you may ask....well, if there is anybody out there still reading, that is. It is simple: on January 24, 2010 the daughter that had been in our hearts for months became 100% ours in every way....and on January 24, 2011 we accepted the referral of an (almost) 6-year-old boy in Ethiopia who will become our son. SURPRISE!!! We are paper pregnant once again =)
The last two years, as we have walked a journey to our daughter and now to our son, our hearts have grown. They have changed, they have expanded, they have been opened in ways that we never would have expected. As Nathan and I started our lives together 8 years ago, we never would have imagined this journey that the Lord has taken us on. We were young, in love, and perhaps a little naive. We knew our little world....we were aware that there was a bigger world out there....we just knew very little about it. We knew very little about how to live outside of ourselves and of what it meant to truly give your life away. Sure, we gave pieces of our time and part of our life and some of our money.....but not our hearts.....not fully. And then we had children. Elijah opened our eyes to the love that was within us....to what it truly means to love someone more than yourself and to let your heart walk outside of you, where you have no control of it. Whenever we talked about adoption (something that I had always thought about) we said "maybe someday" but it wasn't a part of us...it didn't feel like a passion or a calling. Looking back, I suppose that this is because Eli and then Abel were supposed to exist. They were meant to be. Eli & Abel are part of God's plan...for our lives, for our family, for His creation....and we are so very grateful, everyday that His plan for us included them.
And then the Lord spoke plainly to our hearts....he brought the thought of adoption to the forefront of our minds for the first time. For the first time in my life, although adoption had always been a passing thought and a "maybe someday", adoption was something that was right there....all day long. I started reading and praying and seeking....and I was overwhelmed. 123 million orphans (these were the numbers 2.5 years ago....now estimates are closer to 145 million)....I had no idea. I had no idea that there are so many children with no one to pour bubbles in their baths, kiss their cuts, soothe their aches, teach them their numbers, comfort their fears, encourage their dreams, and believe in them...the list goes on and on. The simple fact is that for the majority of the world the things I mentioned above are not reality. They know fears....but not fears about standing up in front of a room of people to recite lines from a play, or being afraid of pretend monsters, or being afraid to tell their parents they hit their brother. They fear not being able to eat the next day....they fear that the water they drink will kill them....they fear that the baby they hold will be the 1 out of 5 to die before their 5th birthday....they fear famine and disease in a way that I never will. 143 million children have never heard of band-aids and bubble baths. They know fear....but not hopes and dreams. These are the things I discovered 2.5 years ago and they changed the landscape of my heart forever.
As is always the case with us, God used my passion to get us somewhere. I shared my heart and my calling with Nathan and after his own pursuit of knowledge and prayer, his heart and calling joined mine. And as is always the case with us, God used Nathan's steadfastness to keep us there. My passion and his consistency....they are a deadly combination =) And so we leapt into the unknown and pursued our daughter. We had learned so much, but we truly had no idea. We had no idea how much faith would be required of us. We had no idea about the tears we would cry and the things we would learn. We had no idea that we would grow-up and realize the need to live outside of ourselves. Our time, our money, our gifts, our talents, our LIVES....they are not our own and they became tied to a greater purpose at that point.
We brought our daughter home (I think I posted 7 or 8 times about our journey to her if anyone is interested!)and we are so very grateful, everyday that His plan for us included her. We thought that the lessons we had learned were going to be applied purely to trying to make a difference in the lives of orphans. "Our plan" was to become advocates for adoption and advocates for orphans. Our plan was to become involved with groups like FOVC (Friends Of Vulnerable Children) and EOR (Ethiopian Orphan Relief).....these groups are working in Ethiopia to change the living conditions of mothers, fathers, and children. They are working to change the lives of people in Ethiopia so that orphans are not created. They are working to provide food, medicine, training and education so that parents can change their lives and live and live well and provide for their children. We planned on working with these organizations and others like them (there are many, many more that I plan on high-lighting in this blog....both of you still reading this will become so informed!). We still plan on spending our lives and our money and our time and our energy and our gifts and our talents for this work. We are passionate....about adoption, about loving people, about changing lives, and about Ethiopia. One year ago we thought that this would be our ONLY plan....that the above things were what we had been shown and what we would pursue. Our family was complete and we had a mission,end of story.... or so we thought.
And then, well, God kind of laughed at us =) Not a mean or vindictive laugh....but the kind of chuckle that parents give when their children think that they have it all together....the kind of chuckle I imagine I will give myself when my 12-year-old son declares that he has figured it all out and met the girl he will marry.
I saw his face and I decided to pray for him. I mentioned his face to Nathan and he did not even give him a second thought....so neither did I....well, at least for a week or two. We didn't want a 4th child...not really. It had been a passing thought in our conciousness, but once again it was a "maybe someday". And even then, we didn't need another son and we would NEVER change our birth order....can you hear the Father chuckle? I want to give you the details in case you want to hear them, but I think that I have rambled on about our hearts and all we have learned already =) I will be back (before February is over...) and I will tell you about "T" and the journey the Lord has taken our hearts on. We don't know him...we have heard bits and pieces that we hold close to our hearts....but we don't know him and we haven't touched him. And yet, there is no doubt in my mind that we will be so very grateful, everyday, that His plan for us includes him.