"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven." Ecc. 3:1

Photo credit to darlingbydesignphotography.com

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I have been very impressed with our adoption agency, All God's Children International. I was even more thankful for their work after spending a week at their transition home in Addis where A.J. has been living for the past several months. Here are a few pictures of some of the Ethiopian women that have been caring for him and the 60 or so other children that live there.

The women are called special mothers. They are certainly "special". The group picture is with Almaz, the Director of Hannah's Hope. She is incredibly efficient and has a beautiful heart for the children of Ethiopia.

There is also a picture of the gate to Hannah's Hope which is a very nice facility that the children and staff moved into after Christmas. In stark contrast is the road leading to Hannah's Hope. So much of the city is in very poor condition.

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Icing on the Cake

On Wednesday we got an "extra special wonderful terrific" visit from my cousin Charis, her husband William, and their newly adopted daughter Hannah Fevin Brown. Words can't describe how comforting it has been to walk this adoption journey with the Browns. I remember Easter of 2009, standing in my aunt's foyer, talking to Charis about the possibility of us both adopting children from Ethiopia. Never in a million years did I think that we would travel on the same plane (adopting through different agencies) one year later to bring our children home. There is no way we could have planned it this way. Isn't God awesome!!

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Loving "heavy"

Our third day in Ethiopia with A.J. was "heavy" for me. I remember pondering all day what it is to love an adopted child. As a family we had been praying for months that God would prepare our hearts (and A.J's) for what was to come. I had explained to the kids before we left that it may take time for them to "feel" like he was their brother. I didn't want them to feel guilty for not having instant love for someone they had just met. We talk often about loving others as yourself and how this would apply with our newest family member.

As I was laying in our hotel room that night I remember praying, "Jesus, I would die for this little boy, but I don't know him." That was strange for me. With our biological children I had 9 months to carry and nurture them. When they were born, I rocked them and nursed them, and gradually learned who they were. In their toddler years I fed them Cheerios, read books to them, and helped them learn their boundaries. With A.J. it was obviously very different. I stepped off the van and this 4 year old boy jumped into my arms......a 4 year old that couldn't speak English. He couldn't tell me about his past or how he felt. He couldn't tell me what his favorite color was or if he was scared in his bed at night.

God continually showed me His faithfulness as we spent the first days of our life together in Ethiopia. Despite the conflicting emotions that were playing in my heart I felt His leading me to be patient, to not be anxious, to wait on Him. I had no doubt that He knew that Afewerk Joseph was going to be my son when He placed the stars in the sky, and that made all the difference!

The distance between "I would die for him" and "I don't know him" is drastically decreasing. Our love for one another is growing. I am watching our whole family learn to love each other in a new, sweet way. A.J. has now been with us for nine days and we have come so far. I am learning more about him every day. He scrunches his nose and growls when we wants to wrestle with me, he says "I love you" and calls me "mommy" 400 times a day, he loves to take a bath, he doesn't like ice in his drinks, he wants Eggo waffles without syrup every morning, he loves to listen to music, he likes to be read to and rocked to sleep, and he detests riding in his car seat.

I have often said that adoption is a roller coaster ride. The last 10 months have been full of highs and lows. I am so grateful to be setting on this side of the process, but I wouldn't trade one minute of this "ride". God is teaching me so much about love, about uncertainties, about His sovereignty. It seemed appropriate to post the picture of A.J. and I with one of my favorite verses painted on the wall of his transition home, Isaiah 40:31.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

The moment we had been waiting for.....

We were so glad to arrive in Ethiopia Sunday evening. We were exhausted, but overjoyed to be so close to A.J. We got to the hotel around 9:00 p.m. and unpacked all of our things. I have to say how proud Jody and I were of Sydney. She was a wonderful traveler and we truly enjoyed spending so much time with her on the plane (lots of quality time on an 18 hour plane ride). We fell into bed around midnight and were up early Monday morning to meet Almaz in the hotel conference room. (Jody filling out paper work above). Normally we would have already had A.J and would have spent the day with him before we headed to the Embassy. However, the volcano had disrupted our entire schedule and we rushed out of the hotel after this meeting and headed to Hannah's Hope to pick up our children. I remember praying on the way there, "Lord, I pray that he feels safe. That he can sense how much we love him." I was so nervous! As we pulled into the gate I heard Jody say "I see him. There he is." Of course, all of the parents were glued to the windows, each waiting for that first glimpse of their child. I hate that we were rushed, but we had to leave shortly to make our American Embassy appointment. I remember stepping out of the van and Afewerk running into my arms. I couldn't even look at his face because he was covering my cheeks with the most precious kisses. I remember feeling great relief. I remember thinking he was smaller than I had envisioned. I vividly recall thinking he was beautiful. I was so grateful and my heart was full. Unfortunately, we literally had to jump back on the van and go. That was the first time Jody got to hold him. He received the same wonderful greeting (pictured above.)

The next several hours were a blur. We stood in line for almost 2 hours waiting for our turn at the embassy. That is never the beginning you want with your newly adopted child. We had packed plenty of snacks and toys and I was so glad we had. We rolled a toy car he instantly loved and ate animal crackers and suckers.

After the appointment we were taken back to the hotel. We walked into our room and Afewerk immediately headed for the dresser full of snacks and toys. We spent the rest of the day playing and eating. The exhaustion set in during the late afternoon. That night we gave him a bath, put on his new PJ's, and ate dinner in the room....traditional Ethiopian lamb tips for him, french fries and Coke for Jody, Sydney, and I. What a sweet night it was as we tucked him in bed and watched him drift off to sleep. I remember drifting off to sleep as I thanked my Savior for saving me and blessing me in such an awesome way.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Ain't No Volcano Spewing Enough.....To Keep Me From Getting to You Babe."

It is 1:20 a.m. here in Addis Ababba Ethiopia. I am setting in the dark in our hotel room while everyone sleeps. As has become my habit, I fall asleep around 10:30 p.m. or 11:00 and wake up shortly after, not to fall back asleep until 3:00 a.m. or so. While Jody, Sydney, and Afewerk sleep I get on the laptop and eat Little Debbie snack cakes. I will probably gain 10 pounds by the time we get home. The Internet connection has been very poor and I have not been able to access the blog until now.

There is so much to say about our trip here so far. It has been a whirlwind beginning with our discovery late Thursday afternoon that a volcano in Iceland was causing flights throughout Europe to be canceled. We were scheduled to leave Friday morning for Nashville to fly out KLM through Amsterdam and then on to Ethiopia. We went to sleep on Thursday evening not knowing if we were going. I spent the better part of Thursday packing, pacing, and praying. We spoke to our travel agent who was in route to her aunt's funeral in California. She got back to us around midnight and said our flight status was still unknown, but it didn't look good. She advised us to get up and leave for Nashville as planned and we would figure something out once we got there. I fought back tears through all of this. I felt that if I started crying I would not be able to stop. The culmination of trying to get all of our things packed and ready as well as making sure the children we were leaving behind were cared for and the stress of this volcano (whoever heard of volcanoes in Iceland anyway) was more than I could hold. I couldn't stand the thought of us not getting here for our Embassy Date. If we missed our date we would be postponed until sometime in May.

We woke up early Thursday and persevered not knowing if we were actually leaving or not. At 6:45 we got Carson off for school and at 8:30 Jody was putting the last of our luggage in the car and mom was coming for the other kids. At 8:31 our travel agent calls. Our flight is cancelled, however she has booked us on another flight to leave on Saturday. She assured us we would still make it in time for the embassy appointment. Our new flight would land Sunday night in Ethiopia at 7:oo p.m. So we shut the car door, sent my mom home, and resolved to leave the next day.

The beautiful part of this is that this was also the day my family was scheduled to move my grandaddy from his home into assisted living. My grandaddy agreed to go, but was obviously sad and unsure. We decided to head to Murray and help with the move. It was also his 86th birthday. We spent the whole day with him helping set up his new apartment and celebrating the life of this man we all love so much. By the time we arrived home that evening, we were exhausted but our hearts were full. It was truly a great day!! There was a lot of "good" in not leaving for Ethiopia like we had anticipated. I wouldn't trade that day for anything!

So, we get up on Saturday and leave as planned. You can see that in the picture. We arrive in Nashville and are told by the ticket agent that our new flight will not be going because no planes were allowed to fly through Rome (our flight had a scheduled stop there for fuel). My heart began to pound and I thought my head might explode. We asked United Airlines to allow us to continue our flight to Washington D.C. and we would figure out the rest from there. They refused. We called our travel agent again who was now walking in the door of the funeral for her aunt. She said she would call us back as soon as the funeral was over, obviously her hands were tied at this point. I remember standing there at the United check in and praying. "Please Jesus, I want your will to be done, but I do not understand. Please help us." About that time the check in agent called Ethiopian airlines and was assured that the flight was on as scheduled. Apparently the flight system had not been updated yet. At that very point the computer screen changed and we were allowed to proceed on. He told us later that he had turned away 15 people before us that morning with international flights through Europe. We were the first that had gotten cleared!!!

I will post the next phase of our journey later, but you can see in the other picture that Syd and I were very happy to see that Ethiopian airplane loading up our bags for the next leg of the trip.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Our last few days as a family of 6

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We camped this week and had a wonderful time. The weather was perfect and we all enjoyed the sunshine, bike rides, walks by the lake, feeding the geese, fishing and campfires (even though I forgot the marshmallows). Camping sure is a lot of work on this mom and dad, but always worth the memories we make. Carson wrote a paper recently and described this camping spot (we have been here several times) as one of her favorite places ever.

Get ready A.J. We have your spot in the pop-up ready to go!!!