Sunday, March 27, 2011

Don't Judge

I'm fairly certain that Amaya was the only child at Chuck E. Cheese last Monday who was sporting a marijuana leaf wristband.

I can only imagine what the other parents must've thought. Maybe they thought I was some freaky pothead who was trippin' off the oversized mouse band. Or that I was some pro-hemp mother who was using my 5 year old to make a political statement. Or maybe they thought Maya had gotten into my private stash of marijuana-wear. I don't know.


They probably didn't realize that these little wristbands were gifts, packaged with care and love by an orphan who lives in the 3rd poorest country on the planet.



They came with scripture - a different verse for each member of his far-away family.


..and they matched his.

I'm guessing that B didn't know the wrist band was an advertisement for a mind-altering illegal drug. Yeah...I wore mine in Africa...and lemme tell you...those suckers were tiz-ight. They literally gave my wrist a muffin top. I put mine away for safe-keeping after wearing it the first day. But make no mistake; I cherish them...even if they do make people think we're potheads.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Adoption Update

This past week was super busy in terms of the adoption process. I got our dossier paperwork in order and sent all 25ish documents to 5 different states for authentication. I had to laugh at myself, I literally drove past one mailbox with my envelope in hand, because it didn't look trustworthy enough. What if it lost my envelope? That would delay everything! The importance of these documents getting where they need to go to get what they need to get done to them weighs against the number of days my son will sit an orphanage. It was with this thought in mind that I carefully, yet expeditiously addressed envelopes and Fed Ex labels all week.

I have a very tight timeline put together that I call "The God Timeline" - because there is no way that we could possibly achieve the goal for B's homecoming without God's miraculous intervention . My prayer is for B to be home by....[drum roll please].... his birthday (September) - which is probably 4-6 months earlier than "logical timing" would suggest. But I LOVE to pray for things that the world would call "impossible" because God shows up in a big way when we step out in faith! Just ask the Centurion.

So today I had fifteen 4-second skype conversations with B. The internet kept dropping us...but he did manage to tell me one thing that made my heart sing praises, "they started the process with me - they took two portraits this week". He smiled, but was so stinkin' nonchalant about it...I was like, "What?" ...and my mind immediately flooded with questions as our connection dropped "...I need details, names, did they ask you any questions? Who? What day? Did they say anything else? Did they tell you when they'd meet with you again? Did they prick you with any needles yet? Oh and by the way, yay!" By the time our connection resumed I had calmed down enough to squeeze out, "That's great honey, I'm excited and encouraged".

Our homestudy is done (drafted); this week I need our adoption agency to approve the draft and our homestudy agency to finalize it, notarize it, and send 5 copies where they need to go so that I can apply to CIS by the end of the week. I know - that's a lot of things to happen in one week....but remember this process is bathed in prayer. Not that God is on my time, cause He's definitely not. He's certainly shown me that over the last two years - but I do believe He's good to go now and we're full throttle, baby. He's shown me that His hand is in this and on this and I have been completely overwhelmed by His power in the details.

Please join us in prayer this week. I am longing to have our boy here and he's longing to be here with us. Let's watch God move mountains together...he's already moved Dirt... :-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

This...

...scares the crap out of me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Madness

Today the temp hit 57 degrees
The kids could not be contained

Within moments of pulling into the driveway, a skateboard, a bike, a strollers, an ATV, a tricycle, a soccer ball,

and two basketballs were in play.

It's beginning to feel like spring!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maya Monday

This is what I like best about Mondays:



Sunday, March 13, 2011

His Provision

God called me to Ethiopia 2 years ago. I went kicking and screaming I reluctantly went. When I got there I fell in love. I became broken. Kay Warren calls it "gloriously ruined" in her book Dangerous Surrender. That feels about right.

When I returned home in May of 2009, I walked into my pastor's office and asked him if we could engage in a sponsorship program through Children's HopeChest. He smiled and told me he had just been reading Isaiah and felt that we needed to do something more for orphans. I explained that I had just been on a vision trip with Children's HopeChest and had found an orphanage that would be perfect for us. We moved forward.

In October 2009 we launched the sponsorship program at EBC and approximately 35 kids were matched with sponsors at our church. I hung a bulletin board and sent out emails periodically, reminding the sponsors to write. I rarely received any response, except for the occasional question or complaint from someone who hadn't heard from their child.

Though Dirt was very supportive, he didn't really "get it". I was lonely and there were times where I cried out to God asking him to pick on someone else. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I felt like I was carrying His burden for orphans around by myself and I wanted out. God had provided me with a network of Christian women across the country who had similar burdens for orphans and a passion to follow Jesus and I found solace in those long distance relationships. We emailed and prayed together over the phone, which was great - but I also longed for local fellowship. I prayed for my church to take our responsibility for orphans seriously and I boldly asked God to move the "spirit of adoption" through our church.

A year into the sponsorship program my pastor approached me about planning a trip to meet the kids. God assembled a team of 12 of us, including Dirt and Avery. In the months leading up to the trip I asked for volunteers to organize crafts and games, but no one raised their hand. Some of our team members would talk about their different missions experiences and I began to think that no one was really invested in this cause; maybe it was just going to be another stamp on their passports. I prayed and asked God to lay the burden to help on someone else's heart. Apparently He laid it on my pastor's heart because the next week at our meeting, he assigned tasks to different members of the team.

Once we arrived in Ethiopia, I was done. Literally done. As in I didn't have to do anything else. At all. Um...I almost felt like I wasn't doing enough. I literally sat back all week and watched God break the hearts of these unsuspecting travelers. I saw God's passion for orphans sweep through the team in a way that I hadn't anticipated or imagined.



This was His Provision...for me.

I suppose it would be wrong for me to say that the kids didn't get anything from us; I know they did. I know it fills them with joy to have people love them, hold them, kiss them, look into their eyes and tell them that they love them - and mean it. I know that they see us as part of God's love and provision for them - both physically and spiritually. But what we gain from them is so much more.


These two (our pastor and his 8 year old sponsor daughter) - God is working it out for them to be together forever. Our pastor and his wife came home last week and immediately began the adoption process. (An amazing story for another day!)



..and of course, our church left behind it's legacy: a basketball hoop.

On our way home I asked our pastor if there was anything I could do to help prepare
for the service where we'd share the trip with the congregation and he told me that they were all set - other people had stepped up and were working on it.

When God calls you to something, He provides. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

He Rocked Africa

In case you were wondering...


...Avery rocked the whole trip.

There were certain aspects of the trip where I wasn't sure what we'd get from Avery. Would he sleep on the plane? Would he get overtired have a freaky mood swing? Would he engage in a mama turf-war with his new bro? Would he shy away from interacting with orphans or other adults on the team?



He could've acted crazy and no one would blame his little 11-year old self for doing so after 30+ hours of sleepless travel. Let's face it, 4 countries on 3 continents in 24 hours is a lot to take in. But he didn't. He embraced Africa, Her beautiful people, Her children...

...Her crazy futbol...


...and his new brother.

Some funny "Avery highlights" that I hope never to forget:
1) His hair never looked worse. Ever. Dirt and I were distraught by his crazy hair all week. The arid air did not agree with the fro. I tried hiding it under a bandanna, braiding it, and finally under a big rasta cap. Dirt and I literally had conversations about how to get him to a barber IN AFRICA.
2) While at El Olam orphanage, another missions group was visiting the children and an older woman approached Avery thinking that he was an orphan. He went with it.
3) Our pastor bribed him to get his hair braided, promising 100 birr. I doubled the pot to 200 birr. He got his hair braided thinking he would be rich - it wasn't until later that he found out that 200 birr = 12 dollars.
4) On the last night, Avery called me downstairs, I found that he had "packed" B in one of our duffle bags. I guess that's an 11-year old's version of adoption.
5) Avery has a 1 Fanta limit. He loses control of his sensibilities if he has 2. We learned this the hard way.
6) Avery was happy to eat chicken fingers and french fries in Ethiopia - even though Ethiopian chicken fingers have a bone sticking out of them. (nom nom).
*
My focus was definitely not on Avery and he was cool with that. On the plane ride home I remember looking down at him and thinking, wow - did we just spend a week in Africa together, cause it feels almost like I haven't seen you all week [read = mama's been preoccupied]. But then again, he was pretty "occupied" as well. Most of the time he was chasing or running from B.

All that, I guess, to say that I'm proud of the way Avery handled himself in Africa. He's a pretty cool dude.

Monday, March 07, 2011

One Needle Closer

It's a cold and rainy Monday morning and we're running behind schedule. I need to get the kids to school on time because I have an appointment at 8:30. A snapshot of the scene in my kitchen at 7:40am would depict the 5 year old smiling wildly because she is talking into a cat on my iphone and hearing her words repeated in a squeaky cat voice; the 10 year old painting her nails purple (even though she has yet brush her teeth), and the 11 year old standing completely still, staring blankly into space. And then there would be me - a large blurred figure running around, barking orders, packing lunches and making individual breakfast orders to go. The whole scene is wrong on so many levels.

We get out of the house late and the kids immediately begin to lodge their respective complaints until they resign themselves to the fact that 1) I don't care about resolving their petty issues, and 2) they have to get along for the next 25 minutes (which is the approximate duration of our inter-state commute to their private Christian school). I look at the dashboard clock and begin to estimate how late I'm going to be for my appointment. My hand searches my purse for my phone so I can call and let them know I'm behind schedule - which is when I realize that I left my phone at home.

Once we drop the two older kids off, a bellyache occurs in the backseat. Maya begins to cry. She gets bellyaches and I have no idea what is causing them. Fear of the worst creeps in and I console myself with the reminder that I brought her for testing in November and they called it constipation. My mind begins to search through the useless information folder in my upper cortex and I pull out the recent poop schedule for Child #3; I see that she made two poops yesterday and one on Saturday - I don't think she's constipated. I resolve to call the doctor later today.

By the time I arrive at my 8:30 appointment, it is 8:45. The woman is extremely gracious and happy, and she has yellow-rimmed glasses, and I love her. She has us down in the appointment book as "husband and wife" and that tickles me. I explain to her that my husband would be coming at lunchtime. I take a seat and extend my left arm to her. She tells me that I have thick skin and moments later I feel the "pinch". My TB test is in process - I just need to come back in two days to get it read.

I tell her that this is part of our adoption process to bring our 14-year old son home from Ethiopia. As those words cascade out through my lips, I fall in love with them. I vow to try to find a way to tell every person I come in contact with today. Gum? Why yes, I want to have fresh breath for when we pick up our 14-year old son from Ethiopia. Milk? Yes, gotta keep my body strong for my trip to Africa when I go pick up my son who we're adopting. Tampons? Yep, I'm not pregnant, but I'm expecting another child this year..holla.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Coming Out of the Closet

We're ADOPTING!!!!

Ah..that felt good.

I've been keeping a little big secret for several months now. We began the adoption process in November. We filled out the Gladney application and submitted group 1 and 2 paperwork, met with the homestudy social worker 4 times, got fingerprinted and FBI clearance, and began chasing dossier papers from 5 states. We are well on our way!

The initial idea was that maybe we'd adopt B and a toddler boy - but per Maine rules, we'd need another bedroom for a little boy, and with things the way they are in Ethiopia right now, we're just going to concentrate on bringing B home as quickly as possible.

B knows what we're up to. We prayed and thought long and hard about this decision and ultimately decided that it was best for him to know our intentions, rather than us leaving him alone in Ethiopia feeling rejected and without hope. Now he has hope, he has something to focus his prayer on, and he knows that he is not "rejected" - but that his mom and dad WANT him and are trying their best to bring him home as soon as possible. He also knows that there are risks involved, we had a translator present to ensure that he understood that much of this process is out of our control and despite our best efforts to bring him home, there may be roadblocks.

In fact, several roadblocks have already surfaced.

1) Gladney's Ethiopian adoptions are currently on hold (creating a backlog)

2) CIS, a US govt agency that is vital to our next step in the process, may end up shutting down temporarily which would cause delays.

3) The Ethiopian govt agency (MOWA) announced last week that they will reduce the number of cases they see each day from 40 to 5. This bit of news is the most disturbing of all.

When I expressed my concern to Dirt, he assured me that God didn't bring us this far for nothing, he said that God is just pulling a "Gideon". Gideon was going to battle against a huge army and God widdled Gideon's army down to only 300 men. There was no logical way that an army of 300 could defeat an army of 1,000,000 - without God's help. God is doing the same here. He's stacking the odds so that there is no logical way this adoption can happen...without Him. He will be glorified!

On FB, there is a flurry of chatter around this article, that recently surfaced around Ethiopia cutting back on adoptions by 90 percent. I have three main thoughts regarding this article:

1) UNICEF hates adoption, they couldn't have found a more biased organization to interview.

2) If there are issues with infant adoption, Ethiopia should deal with them separately and allow waiting children to get through the system quickly. Haven't they suffered enough? My son has been living in a hell-hole for 8 years and is nearing the age-out limit - why should he be impacted?

3) God is BIGGER. My God is bigger than this and I am choosing to cling to Him in all this uncertainty. He is my rock, He is my fortress, He is my sustainer and I will cling to Him and Him alone. (Psalm 18:2)

Apparently the Ethiopian govt is meeting this week to discuss the adoption process. Please join me in praying that the Ethiopian government will allow waiting orphans to be expeditiously brought home to their US families. I'm clinging to this promise "God sets the lonely in families" - Psalm 68:6.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Housekeeping

I think I'm going to try blogging again. You know, like the kind with words. Somewhere between Twitter and Facebook my blog posts morphed into 4 photos with captions under 140 characters. In fact, my brain might only think in thoughts that are 140 characters or less, so this whole blog thing might be a challenge. But I'm up for it. I think. Well, today I am.

We used to have a lot of fun around here. Remember the Sweet Tea post? How about the Walmart debate? Oh those were good times, good times.

So much has happened since I stopped writing, I'll get you caught up on all that later. And the biggest news is that we're now officially planning to adopt "B".

That brings me to a bit of housekeeping. Since we're officially "in process", I need to go through my old posts and "De-B-ify" the blog. When you're in the adoption process you can't have photographs or other identifiers (names) of Ethiopian orphans on your blog. That means I need to remove a bunch of stuff from the last two years.

So, you'll see some changes around here. B will now be referred to as "BAM" (likely his initials once he gets here, maybe).

Also, you'll see more words around this place. God willing (and time permitting).

Thursday, March 03, 2011

How Was Africa?

I never know how to answer this question.
I am convinced that there is no answer to this question.
It was good.
It was awesome.
I saw God move.


I saw hearts melt.



I saw love come to life.


I experienced my dreams.


I connected with old friends and made many new ones.

Africa was amazing. As always.