Our Adoption Story

This is a long but still glorious story.  I hope I tell it well.  Prepare yourselves.

I am aboard our flight to Ethiopia, sailing along the coast of Albania. It is dinner time at home, night in Ethiopia. I am still considering all that has happened in the past nearly three years, from our decision to adopt to this day, when our third child will be placed in our custody permanently.

Our decision to adopt was born from infertility, infertility I suspected initially in my early twenties when my body just didn’t seem to work right. As I progressed though my medical education, I studied the detailed cyclical nature of women, the ebb and flow of hormones and blood, the precise and perfect release of an ovum, and I knew. We sought the advice of my physician two months after trying to start a family. For two years, we submitted to examinations and ultrasounds, provided temperature charts and fluid samples, tried pills and injections, inseminations. A process that is so simple, even accidental for so many, could not, would not be replicated in me. During this time, we moved to a new city, started new jobs, searched for a new church home. We only had each other since we had no established relationships in our new home.

We began exploring adoption even before our infertility treatments ceased. I think somehow I already knew that it wasn’t useful to continue. I did a lot of begging and pleading with God during this time, but I think I didn’t listen often. Sometimes I think if we had been more in tune with God’s desires for us, we wouldn’t have bothered. Adoption was such relief for me at first, a new process to pour my energy into, a break from each failed cycle. I had hope. I may not be able to ovulate, but I can handle paperwork. Our agency was very optimistic, promised an infant boy home in my arms in 9-12 months from our initial meeting. No one with our agency had requested a boy, all had requested girls, and there were boys waiting to be matched with families. We completed our home study and dossier in about 2 months. We prayed blessings over our stamped and sealed dossier and mailed it to Ethiopia.

By this time, we had waited almost three years for a child, and I was sinking. I avoided the mall because of the maternity store, blocked posts from a pregnant friend on Facebook, tried to avoid sending hateful glares towards strollers and bulging bellies. I attended to newborns in the hospital nursery every week, cupping each of their little heads in my hand and whispering, “God, I want this” while biting the inside of my cheek. Five staff members in my office were pregnant at this time, and I warred within my barren self. Infertility creates a bitterness that claws away any attempts to express joy over others’ good fortune. It was hard to pray, hard to know that God is omnipotent but wouldn’t do this one thing for us. I know the kind of prayer that has no words, the one that bubbles up out of dark places that no one wants to confess.

Six weeks after our dossier was mailed and after one long day on my knees, our social worker called with our referral. I stared and stared at that face, our son, the promised little boy, Mente. He was only 3 months old. I pictured him home in 2 months, thought about warming bottles, snuggling him up in sleepers, rocking him to sleep. Matt, overjoyed, showed everyone pictures of his boy.  We gave him a second name, bought a tiny pair of black high top Chuck Taylors. We expected a court date within a month, home with him in two. Weeks passed, and we received no calls. I didn’t want to be obnoxious mother, so I waited 6 weeks before trying to reach our social worker. She didn’t return calls or email. Our agency had changed ownership, but we were never notified. Another adoptive parent finally placed me in touch with the new owner who promised to look into it for us.

During this time, I participated with some friends in a chronological reading through the Bible in 40 days. It was an enormous challenge, but as the timing of our court date neared, The Lord showed me 19 different scriptures to encourage me in our wait. I wrote each one down, little sprinkles as I waited for the rains.

Two more weeks passed, and our new agency contact called. She said there was a problem, one she didn’t understand fully, but it had something to do with our son’s paperwork. She said he never should have been referred to us at all, that he did not have appropriate paperwork to proceed with a court date. Ethiopian Agency staff had assured her that this was correctable with time. I had traveled in Africa twice already by this time, and I knew a little about what Africans really mean when they say it will take time. If they say hours, they mean days, and if they estimate days, they mean weeks or months. This was extremely unsettling for me since no time frame was given at all. Our agency contact said not to worry, the agency feels badly about this delay. “If you would like, there are other children who will be paper ready in a few weeks. They will refer one of these children to you, and when your son’s papers are ready, you can adopt him also,” she assured.

We were terribly disappointed. Not only were we unable to conceive like most families, we were also somehow unable to adopt as well. I simply didn’t understand how God could promise this child to me and not deliver him. I held up the 19 promises I had read during my 40 day study, and argued with God, reminding him of each of those promises. Around this time, we learned that our son’s Ethiopian name means “God can do anything.” I rationalized this delay as God’s way of giving us two children instead of one.

About a month later, our agency called while I was in the midst of an international medicine course out-of-town.  “I have a referral for you,” she said, “a girl.”  How was that possible?  The waiting time for infant girls was nearly two years, and yet there she was, a petite, pink-lipped baby girl, my Lulu.  I spent the rest of the afternoon searching a photo listing where other adoptive parents place photos of the children still living in the orphanage for pictures of my baby girl.  I found only a few and studied her crown of shiny ringlets, the fuchsia birthmark behind her left ear, and her candlestick-thin wrists.  Within the month we were given a court date a few months away.  We packed and prepared, spent a weekend in New York babymooning, and relished our last few months without a child at home.

Finally, on September 24, 2010, we left the crisping, colored trees of our home and set off for Ethiopia, our third visit to this nation of coffee, injera, and incense.  On the flight, I studied scripture and prayed to pass the time.  These verses from the book of Haggai drowned out the engine noise:

” . . . from this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid . . . until now, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.  From this day on, I will bless you.”

Another promise, the barren now bearing fruit.  I believed our court date would be a success.  I am especially sentimental about Ethiopia because I first met Africa there.  Stepping out of the airport we received an assault by color and fragrance, woven scarves, bright blue taxis, cooking spices, soap and exhaust.  We rested that evening and arose early the next morning to meet our daughter.  When we arrived with five other adopting families, we found all the children asleep.  My Lulu was asleep in the first crib, her legs tucked under, fist clutching a square of pink satin.  I knelt by the crib to watch her, wanting desperately to hold her but not wanting to wake her.  She awoke as I snapped a picture, raised her little head, grinned, and then buried it in her lovey.  She popped up again, smiling wide.  I lifted her, held her close for a few minutes, whispering to her, then lifted her to her daddy.  We heard her growl and coo, watched her rake for toys that we offered and practice standing on our thighs.  We fed warmed bottles and held her when she napped.  We stood in the Federal Court of Ethiopia and a gentle Ethiopian judge pronounced, “She is yours.”  We had only to wait for her visa to be issued several weeks later by the U.S. Embassy.

While in Ethiopia, we visited the orphanage across town each day to see Mente, the child we believed to be our son.  The orphanage director was very optimistic, thought he and the social workers had nearly solved our paperwork problem.  We had very little time with him each day since visiting hours were limited and we also wanted to spend time across town with Lulu.

We returned home to await our Embassy appointment, bought dresses and patent leather shoes, invested in a baby carrier, and packed a bag for our daughter.  One month later, we were on our way back to Ethiopia to bring Lulu home.  We relished spending time with our daughter, and each day, we visited Mente in the orphanage.  This time, the orphanage director felt he had done it, repaired the paperwork awaiting only one more document.  We journeyed home optimistic for our future with our two children.

Three weeks after Lulu’s homecoming, our agency contact called to tell us that Mente’s paperwork was complete and had been submitted to Ethiopian court.  We eagerly shared this news with our family and friends.  Not long after, we were given a court date on February 14, 2011, Valentine’s Day.  Finally, this boy would be ours.  We bought a second crib, imagined our two kids playing together in our home.

We boarded our Ethiopian Airlines flight with the same optimism as our prior visits, sure that this time our promised son would be given to us.  He toddled after balls we tossed and played peek-a-boo from under the crib railing.  He played on a blanket spread across the grass of the transition house, the Ethiopian sun grazing us.  In court, the judge said, “Everything looks to be in order, but something is missing.”  We did not pass court, and we had no idea why.  The in-country agency staff didn’t know either but promised to tell us the following day.  I spent most of the night on my knees weeping and begging God to fix this.  What had I done wrong?  We returned to the transition home the next day and were informed that no staff was available as it was a holiday.  We departed Ethiopia that night, without a son and without knowing why.

For weeks we heard nothing from our agency despite calls and emails.  I prayed fervently, but God was also silent.  I felt no encouragement, no reassurance.  Nearly a month later, our agency contact phoned with devastating news: “You did not pass court because Mente’s extended family has been located.  They’ve spoken to his mother, and she has decided to parent him.”  There was such conflict inside me, this intense grief at losing this little boy and still gratitude that he would be united with his birth family.  I felt like he had died, except that he hadn’t.  I felt foolish for grieving a child who was never really mine, silly for owning two cribs but having only one baby.  I imagine this is a little like a miscarriage, a great loss of a child you love intensely but still never really knew, and there is no real support from others because you lost something you never really had.  They do not understand.

The agency promised us another referral within a few weeks since we’d already paid fees for two children and appeared in Ethiopian court for the adoption.  This felt so strange to us though, as if we were replacing one child with another.  My husband explained it to a friend this way:  “Imagine going to pick your child up from daycare.  Your child’s teacher meets you at the door and says, ‘I’m sorry, we’re not able to give your son to you, but if you like we have this adorable little boy you can take home instead.'”  I wrestled so much with my disappointment with God during this time.  After all, he promised Mente to me, and I believed in faith that he would come home, despite his paperwork problems.  The Bible instructs us to have great faith, and I had been obedient.  Why would he promise this boy to me and then allow this?  Did I misunderstand?  I was truly thankful that Mente would live with his birth mother; there is no better outcome for him, but why then, was he referred to us at all?  Why would God allow us to endure this heartache?  I could not understand how to balance having great faith and disappointment, and I could not make sense of any of it.

In May 2011, our replacement referral finally arrived, and I began the process of moving on from Mente and allowing myself to love another baby boy, Teme.  Teme’s paperwork was complete, and we were assured no problems with his adoption.  We did not have to travel for court, so we waited at home for things to progress in Ethiopia.  After already losing a child, I was anxious about falling in love with our new son.  I wouldn’t allow myself to look at his picture or imagine him in my home.  I called him “Maybe Baby,” afraid to get too close.  My reservations weren’t unfounded.  The Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs office (MOWCYA) must approve every adoption before it is granted by the judge, and they had announced that they would only process cases at a rate of 5% of their previous rate, which meant it was very difficult to pass court quickly.  There were rumors that Ethiopian adoptions may cease altogether.  Night after night, I prayed late into the evening, covering the morning hours in Ethiopia with prayer for Teme.  We fasted regularly.  It took two months for us to pass court in Ethiopia, and another four months before we had clearance from the U.S. Embassy to bring Teme home.

We traveled back to Ethiopia in December 2011 to bring Teme home.  We were horrified to find him malnourished, with sagging skin around his abdomen and thighs, dull eyes, and a silent cry.  His scalp had two painful infections that needed treatment.  We spent our first few days feeding him, holding him, hydrating him, spooning medications into his mouth, and he brightened quickly.  He clung to us constantly and fussed anytime food was nearby and not immediately in front of him.  I ached over his insecurity and promised him he would never hunger again.  On our third day in Ethiopia, we visited the orphanage to bring donations for the children there.  We were met at the door by Yacob, a man we hadn’t met before.  He informed us he was the new director.  He thanked us for our donations and then offered to allow us to visit the children.  In the first room we entered, my eyes fixed immediately on Mente.  I fell to my knees, reached for him, and he stared at me.  As Matt walked in the room Mente cried painfully.  He would not calm until Matt left the room.  Somehow, he remembered us.  It had been nearly a year since we were told that Mente was going to live with his birth family.  My mama anger rose up, and I demanded to know what had happened.  Yacob assured me he would go directly and look at the file.  I spent a few minutes with Mente, his hand resting on my shoulder, and returned to the office where Matt was waiting for Yacob.  Yacob poured over documents coated in Amharic script, Mente’s picture affixed to the top corner of each one.  We explained what we had been told by our agency.  Yacob exclaimed, “All lies!”  Our agency had done what every adoptive parent fears.  They had lied.  Mente lacked a critical document to be eligible for adoption.  Rather than go through proper channels in the Ethiopian government to obtain this document, our agency had substituted documents from a child who had died at the orphanage.  The courts had either recognized this falsehood or identified the family of the deceased child, so we could not adopt him.  Either option is terrible.  Yacob had other bad news.  The agency, the orphanage’s primary source of support, had ceased providing any financial assistance in July 2011, five months before.  They had mounting debts with the school, the hospital.  The rent was unpaid, and they had very little food for the 86 children who remained there, Mente included.

I spent the night on the floor in the bathroom of our guest house, fists clenched, begging God to tell me what to do next.  We couldn’t trust our agency, yet they were primarily responsible for Mente.  We knew nothing of Yacob other than what he told us.  My son was in a struggling orphanage.  How could I leave him?  I poured over my Bible for instruction and read, “By this you know the Spirit of God:  every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God . . .” (1John 4:2).  Did God mean for me to have three children instead of two?  The following day, we met Yacob and bought groceries for the orphanage.  In the car he asked, “Miss Kelly, do you know Jesus?”  He told me that he is an educated man with a university degree in agriculture that could easily find work with a private company.  Instead he feels called to care for orphans, so he stays at the orphanage despite not having any regular pay or any guarantee of support for the children there.  He trusts God to provide for them.  Yacob pledged his support in helping to complete Mente’s paperwork and transferring him to another agency to facilitate the adoption.  Later that day, we went to the Embassy with Teme to obtain his visa.  I happened to be in line behind a woman holding an emaciated infant.  When asked by the Embassy guard which agency she was with, she responded, “None.  This is a private adoption.”  I chose a seat next to her in the waiting area and asked her to tell me her story.  Like us, she had been with a corrupt agency.  She broke all ties with the agency and hired a consultant to help her finish the adoption process, EthioStork, based in Virgina and run by an Ethiopian-born American woman, Duni Zenaye, fluent in both American and Ethiopian customs and intimately acquainted with all stages of the adoption process.  My prayers had been answered.  We at least had a plan.

I contacted EthioStork on Christmas Eve, the day after we arrived home.  A few weeks later I received a reply from Duni.  She agreed that Mente’s adoption was awful on many levels, and she wasn’t certain that she could help, but she offered to try.  I sent her some information and awaited her response.  Meanwhile, we mobilized other adoptive families to provide support to the orphanage.  Some missionary friends offered to facilitate providing food and helping to pay bills there.  Duni visited the orphanage on a trip to Ethiopia in March 2012.  At that point she understood Mente’s paperwork problems and knew how to fix them, but she needed the approval of several governmental officials for it to happen.  We contracted with her formally.  In May, she advised us to apply with a new agency, one she had selected for its reputation for ethical work in Ethiopia.  Mente’s paper problem was nearly resolved, but there was still no guarantee that he would be sent to the new agency.  I gathered signatures and notary stamps, pressed our friends for recommendation letters, and hired a social worker for a new home study.  On June 1st, Mente was transferred to our new agency’s transition home, and I could breathe again knowing that he was in a stable environment.  We completed our dossier in just 4 weeks, and Mente was formally referred to us by our new agency in June.

We had little hope of receiving a court date prior to the 6 week court closures of the Ethiopian rainy season.  Courts generally close for the season in the first week of August and reopen in October.  This year, the courts remained open until August 22, and we were given a court date on August 6th.  We returned to Ethiopia, this time certain that all was in order, and Mente became our son.  We received our Embassy clearance just over a month later, and now we return to Ethiopia to bring him home.  God can indeed do anything.

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9 days

 

We leave for Ethiopia in 9 days.  I’m not nearly ready to go.  I’m working extra these next two weeks prior to and after our trip to make up for my time off, so there’s not near enough time to collect orphanage donations, clean the house, finish the laundry, decorate my little girl’s room, buy what we’ll need in Africa, etc. prior to our departure.  Our lives are full of other necessities, too, visiting friends at a nearby church camp, completing paperwork and charts, writing letters for my patients, sports physical forms, having Lulu’s hair braided.  I’m trying to focus on one task at a time.  Today, I’m painting Lulu’s shelves and tackling the laundry.  It would be lovely if my kids would nap all afternoon, but I already hear my girl lifting her head.

I want to be intentional about my time with my two before there are three.  I want Lulu and Teme to feel secure in their bond with us prior to leaving them (twice) for a week and bringing home their big brother.  This morning we played outside and read books and danced in the kitchen to my collection of African children’s music.  I still managed to do the dishes and cook two meals for them, and the laundry is still spinning.  This afternoon, I’m hoping to let the kids swim in our kiddie pool and maybe take a walk after Matt comes home.

After we pass court for M, there will be so much more urgency in getting our home ready for him.  We’ll need appropriate clothes and toys, more little cups and little bowls, another little toddler bed.  I’ve got to finish all that I can now before things become so much more complicated.

 

Five months home

My little bitty is growing so much.  This month, he has started combining words.  This past week he came to me and said “graham cracker please.”  He frequently combines words, and he talks in enormous strings of gibberish while nodding his head.  His sentence usually ends with “mama,” so I know he’s telling me something important.  He is desperate to climb the ladder to our big slide.  He can’t quite get his feet on the first rung, but if I help him there, he can climb the rest of the way up.  We played at a nearby park for the day on Mother’s Day, and he nearly walked off of the higher play equipment because he has no fear.  He has been in occupational therapy weekly for the past month.  He loves it.  He especially likes the net swing.  He gets to touch all kinds of things.  His therapist tapes his three fingers down to encourage him to use his pincer grasp.  He only tolerates this if she offers him a snack.  He’s getting much better at playing on his tummy, less afraid of finger paints.  We have a container full of rice in the basement.  Teme loves to sit in it, and Lulu has embraced it as well.  Teme always takes his pants off and plays in it in his onesie.  Now Lulu comes to the basement and takes her pants off so she can sit in the rice too.  She wants to feel it all over, digs her hands down and finds toys we’ve buried.  Lulu now can say her name, her age (two, with her thumb and first finger out), and identify herself as a girl.  I had no idea that she knew until I’d asked.  Teme and Lulu are both singing now.  Lulu is quite proficient with “itsy bitsy spider,” “twinkle twinkle,” “the wheels on the bus,” “Jesus loves me,” and “Frere Jacques.”  Teme sings “twinkle twinkle” and “Jesus loves me” also.  Papa came over the weekend and built a swing set onto our existing play place in the backyard.  Now both kids can swing at the same time.  There’s an open spot for a third swing for M when he arrives.

Day 6: Meeting my daughter

It is so hard to choose a moment to relive, whether to re-experience a moment in order to choose better or to soak in the glory of promises-fulfilled.  I’m choosing to enjoy the glory.  I met my daughter on September 27th, 2010.  We arrived with five other families at our agency’s transition home having just met on the plane the day before.  I don’t know how to adequately explain what it is like, meeting your child amongst strangers who, like you, are meeting their children.  We knew nothing of each other except this adoption bond, our children having shared the same cribs, loved by the same nannies, all suffering the same loss.  We all awoke early that morning despite our jet-lag and gathered in the hotel lobby to await our transportation from the agency.  Hours passed, and we took turns calling the few agency numbers we had on hand and received no answer.  We moved to the stairs outside the hotel and waited there, Deanne smoking her electronic cigarette, our husbands leaning towards the street to watch any passing car.  Finally, a minibus arrived with a driver who spoke very little English.  He lurched along these Ethiopian roads, u-turning in the midst of traffic, politely sounding his horn with each infraction.   In just a few minutes, we turned onto a dirt road and stopped in front of a brown gate.  A door man all in green greeted us.  We arrived during nap time, and all the children were sleeping.  The nannies were kind enough to let us meet them.  We entered a small room with about 10 cribs, all the children sleeping on their bellies.  I thought I saw my daughter in the first crib.  I was also looking for our other referral, little M, so I stopped at each crib.  The nanny directed me back to the first crib and confirmed that she was my little Lulu.  She told us that M still lived at the orphanage across town.  I leaned down at eye level, wanting to watch her but not wake her.  She lifted her head and grinned at me, her two teeth showing, and immediately buried it in her blanket.  A moment later, she looked up again, still smiling.  She pushed up on her arms, and I lifted her to me, held her close.  Finally, I held my daughter.  If you haven’t waited 3 years to hold your daughter, I really don’t think I can explain.  I held her a few moments and passed her to her daddy and had the honor and pleasure of watching my husband become a father.  All this time, five other families were growing, right next to us.  This is hallowed ground.  We mamas spread out on the floor, counting fingers and toes, ears to our little ones chests, tracing birthmarks and examining rashes.  Lulu talked and growled, reached for toys we offered, grinned and laughed.  Eventually, she fell asleep sitting up in her crib, sucking her thumb.  We had court the following day, and she became ours.  We love her so.

The New Normal

Teme has added a joyful and exhausting dimension to our lives.  He has changed so much in the month that we’ve known him. Teme took his first steps on January 13th when we were playing at Matt’s parent’s house.  He is now taking 2-3 steps at a time.  Lulu is eager to help him.  She likes to have me take one of his hands and she takes the other and leads him around the house.  Teme is able to say “mama,” “dada,” “no,” “boo,” “hi,” “bye bye,” “hot,” “tickle tickle,” “choo choo,” “kitty,” “puppy,” “woo woo” (the noise the puppy makes), “all done,” “up,” and he is imitating more and more.  He is proficient at waving hello and goodbye.  He’s fast at crawling and quite good at climbing.  He has mastered the stairs on the little slide at church, and he is able to get off of our couch without falling most of the time.  He loves to be bounced, thrown in the air, swung, rocked, tickled.  He seems to like rough play.  He isn’t particularly good at looking at books yet, just likes to close them.  He knows where his nose is.  We’re still working on other parts.  He cracks up at the “poo tinky toes” game, and he loves to play peek-a-boo.  He likes to play in our play kitchen, but he’d much rather empty out my drawers and cabinets.  Most of the day he carries a white rubber spatula around the house with him or some plastic silverware from the play kitchen.  I think he might be a chef one day.  He loves kitchen utensils, and he loves food.  He mimics Lulu quite a lot.  If she throws her cup, he does also.  He follows her around the house and gets frustrated when he can’t keep up.  He is still easily frustrated by meal times.  If food isn’t immediately in front of him when we put him in his chair, he cries.  If I try to feed him, he cries.  If the food is too hot and needs to cool some before I’ll let him have it, he cries.  He gets so upset that he gags and chokes and has trouble settling down enough to actually eat when it’s time.  If he thinks we have something to eat that he doesn’t have, he cries.  If the bowl is empty, he cries.  Teme is getting more aggressive with food also.  Yesterday I put Lulu in her chair for snack and gave her a banana.  I went back to the counter to get Teme’s snack ready.  Meanwhile, he crawled over to her, pulled up on the side of her chair, and took her banana right out of her hands.  He crawled away pretty quickly while she yelped.  He is much better with varieties of textures, and he is getting much better at chewing.  Like Lulu, Teme loves our kitties, but he isn’t very gentle with them.  He often crawls after Truman and pulls his tail.  Truman, fortunately, is a very docile kitty.

I’ve been surprised at how quickly he has picked up language since he only heard English for the first time about 3 weeks ago, but he has been learning new words every day.  I suppose it helps that he is so much older than Lulu was when she came home, and he gets to hear Lulu jabber all day long.  We listen to music most of the day.  Lulu likes to dance and clap.  Her favorites now are “if you’re happy and you know it,” “Limbs Akimbo,” “Sunlight,” “ABC,” “Bingo,” “The B-I-B-L-E,” and “The Wiggle Wiggle Song.”  I’ve been trying to structure our days some.  With two kids, it’s hard to know how to pass the time.  In the mornings, we have breakfast, and I let the kids play on their own while doing the breakfast dishes.  I try to get them ready for their day next, and then we have reading time (or run errands if needed).  We have lunch at about 11 am and then they take their naps at about noon.  After nap, we have snacks, coloring time (Lulu still eats crayons, so I have to supervise pretty closely), more book reading (especially if we didn’t have time earlier).  They have independent play time while I’m working on getting dinner ready.  After dinner, they play with me and daddy, and then we get ready for bed.  Bedtime is at 8:00 most nights.  This seems to work for us, and as I get more proficient at keeping up with them, I think I’’ll work on incorporating more purposeful activities into their day.  When it is warm, I try to take them outside.  This is a little difficult with Teme still since he doesn’t walk yet, and he and Lulu both tend to want to put acorns in their mouths.  I’m hoping that the double stroller that I want will be on sale soon so that I can take them for walks around the neighborhood on my own, but for now, we use our single stroller and my baby carrier when I need to go out with them both alone.  It isn’t easy getting them both in and out of the car, but I generally load one and then the other.  When we arrive at our destination, I get Teme out and put him in the carrier.  Then Lulu gets out and holds my hand while we walk into the store.  She sits in the shopping cart (difficult getting her in and out with a baby strapped to me, but we are getting better).  She has been so good about holding my hand and walking in the parking lots.  She’s growing up fast, such a big girl now.

Lulu Day

We celebrated Lulu Day today, the day we were given custody of our sweet girl.  We happened to be in the city since we’d gone to an NFL game the night before.  She played outside at my parents house, tried eating leaves and dirt.  We stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some Lulu hair care products where Lulu picked a cupcake out for her special day. We had lunch at the Elephant Bar with my parents and headed back to home afterwards.  She got to enjoy her cupcake at church just prior to our weekly Bible study.

Lulu is 22-months-old.  She is able to say “mama nigh-nigh” or “dada nigh-nigh,” her first two word phrases.  She likes to pretend that she is sleeping, closes her eyes, leans her head back on one of us, and makes snoring sounds.  She learned this from her daddy.  She still loves books, prefers to read them on my lap with a “nigh nigh” blanket covering us up.  When she goes to bed, she always brings baby, Madeline, “nigh nigh” and “uh-nigh nigh” (other night night).  She calls her shoes “ba” and likes to take them off in the car, her socks too.  She takes her clothes out of her drawers and tries to put them on.  She is easily frustrated by this, so we have to limit how much she tries just to avoid a melt down.   Overall, she is still a very good eater, but she has become more picky.  She picks all the garbanzo beans out of her veggie couscous and leaves the rest.  She still loves fruit in general, but she has her preferences.  One day she loves blueberries, the next she won’t touch them.  She’s like this with all fruits except bananas.  She always loves bananas.  She has recently learned to eat an apple whole.  This takes most of the day, and she keeps coming back to the counter to pick up where she left off until the entire apple is gone except a tiny bit of core.  She usually spits the skins back out after each bite with no apple flesh left on them.

On Thanksgiving, Lulu learned to kick a ball for the first time.  She had a blast running around in my parent’s yard with their oversized ball.

Prayers for Ethiopia #2

As many of you know, Matt and I are leaving for Ethiopia on October 30th to pick up our baby girl, Lulu.  I know many of you have been praying for us throughout this process, and for that we will always be thankful.  Here are some ways that you can pray for us on this trip.  For those of you who practice fasting, we hope that you will again consider fasting on our behalf as we travel to be with our children.

1.  Pray especially for our little boy, M, who still does not have the appropriate paperwork to be adopted.  Pray that God will move powerfully in his life and fill in all the gaps so that his case may proceed.  I hate the thought of him growing up in an orphanage when we want him home with us.

2.  Pray for all the children living at Faith Children’s Home, the orphanage where M lives.  There are about 120 children there, about half of them are small infants.

3.  Pray for me as I try to hold a small medical clinic for the children in the orphanage.  Our friends have given generously to us so that I can provide medical care and food for them.  Pray that we are able to use the money wisely and that the children’s needs are met.

4.  Pray for the staff at Faith and the staff of the Agency.  Pray we can be witnesses for Christ when we interact with them.

5.  Pray for our daughter, Lulu, that our appointment with the U.S. Embassy on 11/4 will go smoothly and that she will bond and attach to us quickly.  Pray for her as we take her away from the only caregivers she has ever known.  Pray that we are able to meet her needs.

6.  Pray for the other adoptive families who are traveling with us.

7.  Pray for our travel days.  We leave for Ethiopia on 10/30 and arrive on 10/31.  We will leave Ethiopia on 11/5, arrive in Washington D.C. on 11/6, and arrive in home on 11/7.  Pray for our families especially on the 17 hour flight back to the U.S. as we will have 6 small children on the plane with us.

I plan to use my awake hours on the long flight to Addis Ababa in prayer for you, our dear friends and family.  Please let me know if there are specific ways that I can pray for you while we are away.

Prayers for Ethiopia

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”  1 John 5:14-15

Thanks so much for your prayers.  Please keep them coming.  Here are a few more specific things we need prayer for.

  1. Pray for our preparation.  I’m feeling a little stressed with the details, and my anxiety is increasing as the time approaches.
  2. Pray that God would work miracles in the life of M, that he would be made “paper ready” and be given a court date soon.  I’m praying that we will see real progress in his case while we are in Ethiopia.
  3. Pray that Lulu will pass court on 9/28 and be able to come home soon.
  4. Pray for the health and safety of both children.
  5. Pray for our safety as we travel.  We leave for Ethiopia on 9/25, arrive there on 9/26, leave for home on 10/2 and arrive home on 10/3.  Pray we will adjust to the time difference rapidly.
  6. Pray our donations for the orphanage arrive and pass through customs without difficulty.
  7. Pray for the attachment process between us and our children.
  8. Pray for our safety while in Ethiopia.
  9. Pray for our interaction with the staff at the orphanage and the local people we encounter.  We want to be representatives for Christ when we visit, and we want to bond with our children’s caregivers.  Pray we will have opportunity to witness for Christ while we are there.
  10. Post-adoption depression happens to more than half of adoptive couples.  Please pray that we will be shielded from this.  Pray also for us both as we leave our children in Ethiopia to come back home on 10/2.
  11. Pray for our friends who are also in Ethiopia for court on 9/28 to adopt two girls.  Their oldest girl is having the same paperwork problem as M.

Thanks so much.  We are so grateful for our family and friends.  We will be praying for you also.

How you can help with our adoption

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  Hebrews 10:23

To our dear family and friends:

As most of you know, we are in the process of adopting two precious children from Ethiopia.  This has been a slow and trying process, but finally, we are beginning to see some progress towards bringing our children home.  So that you are all aware of what has happened, our agency first referred us a little boy, now about 11 months old, who is called M in March.  We were also referred a little girl, now about 8 months old, called L this past June.  Unfortunately, the courts do not have all the information that they require for M to be adopted, so his case is not moving forward at all right now.  We are happy to be traveling to Ethiopia on September 25th to appear at a court date on September 28th for L.  We desperately want both of our children to be home with us as soon as possible, and we are convinced that prayer is the only thing that will move the courts in our favor so that we can bring our children home.  The climate of international adoption changes from day to day, and the Ethiopian courts have changed their minds frequently about what is required to finalize an adoption.  We need your fervent prayers.

We also would like to ask if you would be willing to commit to fasting for the well being of our children.  We have fasted periodically throughout this process, and we have both found it to be both a demonstration of our commitment to our adoptions and an opportunity to draw nearer to God as we wait.  We first began the discipline of fasting when we traveled to Zambia in 2009.  There was a member of our team fasting each day for the three months prior to our departure, and I have no doubt that it helped prepare us spiritually for the journey.

Fasting is demonstrated throughout the Bible.  Jesus himself fasted and taught his disciples to fast, yet I find that it is rarely practiced or talked about in churches today.  Fasting is a voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.  Fasts come in many varieties, from fasting from both food and water for a very limited time to fasts from only certain foods.  When we fast, we typically abstain from food for three meals but continue to drink water and other clear liquids during that time.  If you are new to fasting, you might consider fasting for just one meal to start.  Regardless of what type of fast you undertake, it should be private, not noticeable to others.

We hope that you will be willing to fast on behalf of our children while we are in Ethiopia.  The type and length of the fast is up to you, and we pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you in this regard.  We leave for Ethiopia on September 25th, and we will return home on October 3rd.  The days leading up to our court date on September 28th are particularly important, so we hope to have some of our friends and family fasting for us on those days.

We know that for many of you it would not be wise to participate in a traditional fast due to medical concerns.  If that is the case, please consider a fast of a different sort.  Consider fasting from a particular habit, a fast from reading the newspaper, watching television, drinking soda, or surfing the internet.  Fast from anything that consumes your time and could potentially distract you from God’s purposes.  Use your desire for that thing as a reminder to pray.

If you would like to support our adoption by fasting, please let us know when you plan to fast so we can encourage you.  If you choose not to fast but plan to support us through prayer, please communicate that to us as well.  We want to be able to tell our children about all of our friends and family that helped bring them home.  We are so thankful for each of you.

Everything is Double Double

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  Ephesians 3:20

Everything is double double.

My God is good oh.

My God is good oh.

He gives me joy oh.

He give me peace oh.

He gives me double.

Everything is double double.

Everything is better better.

On our last trip to Zambia, I absolutely fell in love with this song.  It’s a simple but fascinating philosophy the Zambians have.  They are some of the poorest people on the planet, but they believe that God has given them double blessings in everything.  They believe it without seeing it.  Many of them don’t even own two shoes let alone double of anything else.  This idea that they trust God for intangible blessings is a demonstration of faith, a confident expectation that God will absolutely deliver on his promises.  They don’t lie around lamenting their poverty and shrugging, “someday perhaps God will bless us.”  They find joy in their hope, and they are sure of what they hope for.  He gives me double.

I have embraced the “Double Double” philosophy.  My little boy’s name is M.  My brother befriended an Ethiopian with the same name on Facebook to inquire what the name means.  M means “Nothing is impossible for God.”  My little boy’s name is confident that God can work out his circumstances for the best.  So, Matt and I found ourselves waiting for paperwork and courts and investigations to be complete so M can eventually come home.  Today, our agency called to offer us a second referral, a 6 month old girl named L.  He gives me double.  We are now waiting to adopt two children, a boy and a girl who are only 1-3 months apart in age.  This is particularly curious because usually adoptive parents have to wait 1-2 years to adopt a girl.  For us to be referred an infant girl is very unusual.  Our expenses will also likely be much less since we will be adopting two children at the same time on the same home study, same set of fingerprints, same everything.  God has given us double, and we are waiting with confident expectation for his hand to move the courts in our favor so that both of our children may come home.