The crazy journey of our family living this beautiful life for our awesome God!
"...Whatsoever you do, do ALL to the glory of GOD." 1 Cor. 10:31

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Day We've Been Waiting For

I'm sitting here trying to figure out what to say and I honestly don't even know where to start.  I frankly can't believe that I am even writing this post but I am and I am so thrilled about it!

After 3 years of waiting, trusting, and then not trusting some days, crying, praying, and learning so much of the Lord's sovereignty....we finally got the call we've been waiting for!  I will never forget that day or that moment.  Our agency called to tell us there is a precious 6 month old little boy who needs a family and do we want to be that family?  Our hearts were racing and I honestly can't remember much of the conversation after that...it was all such a fog. But we said yes and we're finally bringing home a precious little babe from Ethiopia to be a part of our family forever.  Our hearts are overjoyed and oh so thankful.  It's hard to even describe the feeling.  Overnight our worlds were turned upside down and changed forever by a precious face thousands of miles away.

Some of you  may know that we did have expectations that we would be bringing a little girl home. After having 2 boys we thought we might be ready for a break from all the crazy energy and noise.  :)  But after MUCH prayer we decided to change our preferences and let God write our story and within a short time we were given the referral of our beautiful son.  And by the way...he is SO. BEAUTIFUL.  I can't post pictures online at all but if you see me I won't hesitate to share his picture.  I LOVE passing it around!  So please feel free to ask if you'd like to see him.  :)  So  yes...we are going to be one crazy, busy, loud, energetic household of 3 little boys under 4!!  I'm bracing myself for the future!  That's a LOT of testosterone in one house! Yes...this scares me some days. I'm sure if anyone offers "girl time" to me in the future I will be a more than willing participant!!

There is so much more to tell but for now a few details and then I'll write more later.
Just a heads up....our precious little boy has a story, his own story, about his life up to this point.  And because it's his story to share, we won't be sharing many details with people.  We know we may get many questions from others about his past.  Please understand that most of his history will be kept in the quiet of our hearts and our son will choose if/when/who he wants to share when he's older.  We want to keep his story something we get to share with him and then he gets to share with others as he chooses.  Many people who have gone before us in this adoption process have advised us that this is the best route to take and in the best interest of the child.  So please understand where we're coming from with that.  If you are curious as to why or want to know more about that decision, please feel free to ask us and I'll explain more.

As far as timeline details....we are currently in the process of waiting for our PAIR approval. This is the US Embassy approval that we need before we can be submitted to court in Ethiopia.  We have sent off our documents (another long...but thankfully not AS long! list of paperwork we had to put together) to USCIS and hope to receive our approval in the next couple of months.  We have also had to update most of the documents in our dossier as it's been so long since we originally completed them.  So we are currently still waiting on our USCIS fingerprints and then following approval from that.  After we receive those we can put all of our new dossier documents together and get them notarized, state sealed, federally authenticated and then shipped off to Ethiopia.  Please pray with us that the timing of all of this works out as it could cause us some delays in the process.

We still have a lot more waiting to do and it's funny....it's both harder and easier now that we have a little face to stare at.  It's easier because I have hope to cling to again....I have a face that I'm fighting for and can't wait to bring home.  But it's also harder because I'm watching him grow up in pictures and I just want to fly to Ethiopia right now and hold him in my arms.  Christmas has been a mix of emotions knowing that he's spending his first Christmas without a family to love on him and we wish so badly we could have him here with our family.  But it's also been so joyous as we chose to wait until Christmas day to share our news with everyone and that has made for an incredibly special day.  But my oh my....waiting to tell everyone until Christmas was like torture!!!  We knew it would be worth it and we knew it was the only time we'd be with all our family in person so we had to wait. But, I've been dying to shout it from the rooftops and share his picture with every human being I run into.  Seriously, I almost pulled it out at the post office to show the postlady just because I couldn't take keeping it to myself anymore and I'm so stinking proud of the little guy. :)

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support thus far.  We can't even put into words how grateful we are.  We are blessed to have so many people praying for us and for our little guy.  Thank you doesn't seem sufficient.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we continue to wait to bring him home and keep him in your prayers as he's growing up in an orphanage.

I trust you all had a blessed Christmas and have enjoyed spending time with loved ones around you!



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Some More Thoughts on that Compassion Stuff.....

I wanted to add some additional thoughts that perhaps I didn't make clear in my last post..and it was already too long, so I'm writing another post. :)  I have been wanting to write about compassion and the way we use our words with others when they are going through trials for a while now.  It's been something that's been heavy on my heart for a long time, mostly because God's been teaching me a lot about it through our own situations.  We go through trials and it hurts and it's hard but we can still learn so much in the midst of those trials and this is one of those things I've been learning.  And I really am grateful for the learning.  I have always said, the pain may be hard, but I pray it doesn't go to waste.  I pray that I can learn and grow through it and I pray that I can be of encouragement and comfort to someone else some day.

I've shared openly and honestly about some of the struggles we've experienced and where my heart has been in the midst of those struggles.  But please, don't misunderstand my "open-ness" as seeking to put myself and our pain up on a pedestal.  That is definitely not my goal.  I didn't write everything about struggling to have faith and learning about compassion in an attempt to get up on my soapbox and dramatize our pain and throw a pity party for ourselves.  Naturally, our trial is what has caused me to think about these topics more and therefore write about it, but my goal is not at all to say "woe is me, look how bad we've got it."  I share how I hurt in hopes that it will encourage someone else who may be going through the same thing to see that they aren't alone and to perhaps be someone they can talk to if they need.  I do not, I repeat, I do not share in order to magnify ourselves or our situation.  But of course I'm going to draw from our own experiences. And I write openly and honestly because I prefer "real-ness" and showing the "nitty-gritty" so much more over surface-level niceties.  So much more is accomplished in relationships when we are real and we choose to go deep and cut to the heart of things.

I know there are so many other people who have gone through so much harder things than we have.  This world is full of pain.  I hurt for parents who are losing a child to a painful, terminal illness...for children who live without a family to love them and call their own...for parents who see their children ripped from their homes to be thrown into war as child soldiers....for moms who don't have enough to feed their starving children and their hearts ache as their children cry themselves to sleep in hunger....the list goes on and on. There is so much BIG pain in this world.  It makes me cry just thinking about it all.  I would never say we have it the hardest and "poor me", please have pity on our situation.  Please don't think I feel that way. (not saying any of you do...I just want to make sure I'm completely clear)  I just draw from my experiences and am trying to use them to learn more about others and what they're going through and learn from how they handle it and have faith in the midst of trials.  I want to learn how to be more compassionate to others and how to enter into their pain and suffer with them.  That is where my heart is coming from...I don't write to point people to me and our situation..but to get people thinking about how they may have handled certain situations in their own lives and dealt with other people in their pain.  We can all, always improve and grow...and I write as much to myself as I do to others.

I just want to encourage people to be real and to not be afraid to share their hurts and their struggles..so I share mine in hopes that it will help others to do the same.  We all go through struggles...and they vary in degrees and types.  But we can NEVER get into comparing and judging others when they are going through pain.  Each person's pain is his/her own and it's not our place to say how they should or shouldn't be handling it...we aren't in their shoes and we never will be. We are all unique humans who handle things differently and God works in all of our lives differently. So I pray that my words would encourage us to think first before we speak and to just have love and care for people FIRST...before anything else...before we get critical, before we judge, before we "preach" at, before we do anything else.  I think if we do this then we won't be so quick to criticize, judge and "preach"...but we'll be quicker to share in their pain and wrap our arms around them in love and help them carry their burden.  Remember what James said in James 2?  What good is it if we just throw nice phrases at people and tell them the "right" things but don't enter into their pain and help carry the burden for them?  It's useless.

I'm so thankful for God's grace and for the truth of who He is.  I'm so thankful I've got Him to lean into and rest in.  Life may hurt and there may be days when it's hard to have faith but what a gracious, loving God we have.  He doesn't turn His back on us....I believe He hurts when we hurt, but He knows the purpose in it and He promises that everything will be worked out for our good and His glory.  That is balm to my soul....if I forget everything else, I pray I always remember who He is and that He promises to always work everything out to what's best for me and what will glorify Him most.  It may not be my "perceived" best, but His best is way better than anything I can come up with for myself.  I pray my faith will always cling to that.  And I pray yours will too.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When Faith is Tough...Learning Compassion (And an adoption update)

Warning: Things will probably get pretty raw and real in this. I can't keep holding everything in so I'm unloading today.  Take it or leave it...my heart needs to breath.

We received news about the adoption process in Ethiopia today.  I suppose that a good portion of the news was very positive, maybe?  I don't know, it's hard for my heart to sort out what's positive news and negatives news regarding our adoption nowadays.  I think that is because, after 2.5 years, we've had so many roller coasters throughout the process that I don't trust the "news" anymore.  It can seem and sound good one day, but then be completely the opposite within a few weeks, or even days.  I think at this point, because of such an emotional roller coaster that we've experienced, I've just become numb to it all...good and bad.  And truthfully, I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I don't like feeling numb about it, but I do like that it protects my heart to some extent.  However, I love the highs that life brings and I love experiencing those highs and being numb means those also aren't experienced....it's all just nothing.  But in order to have the highs, you must also feel the lows...so "numb-ness" isn't an option.

We were told yesterday that international adoptions from Ethiopia will continue.  After everything we've gone through over the last several months, this is and should be awesome news.  However, this isn't the first time we've heard this.  The last time we heard it, things got bad again and it was all questionable within just a few weeks of hearing the news.  So I guess if you don't see me leaping for joy, it's because I just don't trust the news until I see the actual change in action.  I'm thankful for the news, yes, but I don't trust it 100%.   However, we also heard that there will be several changes made in the process which means it will be a minimum of 2-3 months before we even receive our referral.  For those of you not in the process, this might sound awesome, and my reaction might not make sense, but after 2.5 years of waiting it was just another shot to my heart.  It often feels like all I've heard during the last 2.5 years is "a few more months of waiting"  "hang in there, we think positive change is happening, but just a few more months"  "we think things will improve, but it may take a few more months."  It's constantly a story of adding more and more time to a timeline that is completely unknown...the only "known" part about it is that it just keeps getting longer.  There is no guarantee, no promise this will end, and at this point, it feels like I have no reason to believe it will actually end in us bringing our little one home.  That may all sound a little pessimistic to some of you, but I'm just asking that you bear with me and try and imagine the situation we've gone through over the last few years and why it would cause me to feel that way.  My heart is just weary from waiting.  I know God is sovereign. I know He is in control...but just like most every other (honest) person...I have bad faith days and sometimes it's just hard to hold onto hope.  It just hurts a lot and that's all I know.  My eyes get clouded from the tears and I have a hard time seeing God in the midst of it all. That doesn't mean I don't still know what's true and that I don't still return to that truth.  But like David in the Psalms, sometimes my heart just cries out in pain and confusion.  I could never have imagined what this process would be like and how hard it would be until I actually experienced it and let me tell you....it's NOT for the faint of heart, that's for sure!  I know there are worse things in the world and there are million ways I can find positive in this (I think) and that God is sovereign, but like I said, the pain is still real and some days it's just plain hard.  My heart feels defeated and deflated from so much emotional upheaval and there are days I just want to quit.  I am choosing to be in this situation...I am fighting for this precious baby who I believe God is going to put in our family.  But it's like a big battle of the will to continue the good fight...to not give up when it's completely our choice to be here in the first place (kind of...but that's a whole other post for another day).

The reason I struggle to be open and share this information in this way is because it usually leads to misunderstandings and quite frankly, comments that make it even harder on us.  I'd rather deal with the struggle on our own than put it out there for others to stomp on and add to the heartache (even if it is often "unintentionally").  That may sound harsh, but I've experienced it to be true.  As humans, we just don't do well in speaking gracious words.  Luke and I have experienced way too much of this as we've gone through our infertility, this adoption and a few other trials in our lives.  I don't know what the reason is, if we really just don't know what to say, or maybe we don't like pain and negative things so we try to paint everything in a positive light, or sometimes, it's just downright unkind motives....we think someone else's situation isn't possibly as hard or harder than what we're going through so they don't have a right to "struggle" with it and we are incapable of  "weeping with them when they weep."  We've got to make sure our "hard" is harder than anyone else's "hard." So it becomes a game of comparing whose situation is worse, instead of a practice in compassion.  And oftentimes, our words are disguised in religion and good intentions.  I think a lot of times we are too caught up trying to defend God and stick up for Him when that's not what's needed at all.  We feel the need to throw spiritual phrases at people and stick up for God and "point them in the right direction." God doesn't need defending and for many people, at least I know for me, I already know what's true.  I don't need you to defend or preach the truth to me.  I already spend the majority of my time doing that to myself.  It's how I maintain my sanity.  Most of the time people just need us to wrap our arms around them, say I'm sorry, and hurt with them.  Don't try and take away, minimize, trivialize, compare or spiritualize the pain.  Just hurt with them. We're too afraid to enter into a person's suffering so instead we say a bajillion spiritual phrases to "ease the pain" when a lot of times it doesn't end up easing the pain at all.  Rather, it causes the hurting person more pain as they continue to hurt by themselves.  So instead of offering balm to a hurting heart, we become like Job's friends and throw our "spiritual know-it-all-ness" all over the situation and end up causing more pain and confusion than there was before we opened our mouths (or typed on our computer/phone).

This onslaught of un-graciousness often causes us to put on a somewhat fake front of faith.  We talk to others about our trial or whatever we're going through and we paint it with faith and spiritual-ness and all sorts of good stuff.  "It's ok, just gotta keep trusting"  "I know God's in control, so we'll just keep waiting" "I know there is purpose in the pain so bring it on."  Before you jump all over me, I know those are good phrases and sometimes people really do mean them.  I've said them and meant it.  Of course we should strive to think and feel that way. But sometimes we don't, sometimes we just have bad days.  But because everyone else "has it together" and we don't want to show the vulnerability of our faith, and we're afraid of what they'll say if we are honest, we smother it in a facade of roses and rainbows.  This gets us nowhere people!  This isn't what real faith and real relationships are about.  When we show the ugly then we show others that we're real and it gives them the courage to be honest as well. Then it gives all of us the chance to enter into each other's suffering and hurt with each other and show true compassion and love.  Not throw pat phrases at each other, but rather show true care and genuine concern.  Just because pain is experienced doesn't mean a person isn't trusting God and it doesn't mean God isn't working.  But we can be world changers when we learn how to hurt WITH others and not just throw words at them in attempt to make sense of the pain.  Jesus didn't stay up in Heaven and throw down His words and commands at us.  He entered into our world.  He felt pain with us and He took the ultimate pain upon himself for us.  Perhaps we can and should learn more from His example.  (And if you want an awesome example of vulnerable honesty...true faith...just go to Psalms.  You can't get much more vulnerable than David did.  Don't you think there's a reason God included all of that in His word?!)

When was the last time you entered into someone else's pain or bore it for them?  Perhaps we could all use a little more of "thinking before we speak."  Try putting yourself in someone else's situation, imagine how it must feel for them...don't try and rationalize it away or minimize it.  Just try and feel it and then show them love with the way you respond.
And I have to say..for all of you who have prayed us through this adoption...thank you thank you thank you. We really do appreciate it.  And thanks for letting me be real for a bit.  :)  I've already learned so much throughout this process and God is definitely teaching me a lot about compassion and I truly am so grateful for that.  In the meantime....we'll keep waiting.

Oh...and Baby E...don't worry, I won't ever give up on you.  It may be hard some days, but I won't give up, I promise.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

So....that whole adoption thing??

To be honest, I'm not really even sure how to or where to start this post.  I think my heart is probably still a little bit too raw to really process everything that has gone on the last few months and my own mind isn't quite wrapped around where we are at and what I'm supposed to be thinking and feeling about it all.  So bear with me if it's a bit discombobulated and doesn't flow super well. :)  I'm just going to let my heart spill out as best as I can.

We've had a lot of changes with our adoption go on in the last several months and I've had a few people ask how it's going or where we're at with everything so I thought it might be helpful if I just explained it all on here and hopefully it will make sense and update everyone a little bit about what's going on.

If you know us, which I assume everyone reading this does, you know we've been in the process to adopt from Ethiopia for about 2.5 years now.  Did we expect it to be this long? Um...no, Definitely not.  Jack was a bit of a surprise, ok, a really huge surprise :), in the middle of the process so that delayed things a little bit. But then our agency changed their minds on a few things with our case and that prolonged our process even longer...by a long time, actually.  We've been at the top spot for a referral for a long time...since before September of 2013.  However, that clearly has not happened yet.  There are a lot of reasons for that and hopefully I can explain some of them.

Up until the last few months we were still really hopeful that any day we'd be getting that call.  The call I daydream about at least once a day.  The call that would tell us there's a little one in need of a family and we're that family!  And the day I would see that precious child's face and be overjoyed and overcome with emotion at the sight of her/him.  However, there have been a lot of changes in the whole adoption system in Ethiopia over the last several months and I'm not sure that day is coming now.

You see, it's actually hard for me to even explain because I don't even understand it all and there aren't a lot of facts and hard proofs of what is going on in Ethiopia right now and in addition, we're dealing with a 3rd world government which can make things very volatile (seriously, our government can even make things volatile!).  So know that there's a reason I can't always answer everyone's questions because I don't even know the answers myself.

Back in January there was a big scare when there was a statement released that said Ethiopia was going to completely shut down their international adoption system.  No one knew why or when or what was going to happen, that's all the more information we got.  We waited for several weeks and were finally told that the "powers that be" had met in Ethiopia and decided they would not be shutting down the system completely, but they would be making big changes to "hopefully improve" the system.  This was much better news and put our hearts back at ease.  However, things have not progressed in a positive manner and right now there is no end in sight as to whether or not this whole thing will resolve.  The director of the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWA), which is the government agency in Ethiopia that oversees adoptions, has stated clearly that she is strongly against international adoption.  However the federal gov't in Ethiopia stated that they are not and they will not be shutting down adoptions. This has caused a variety of issues and no one really knows for certain what is going on but many people believe that international adoptions are now being "stonewalled" by authorities in Ethiopia.  There are a variety of requirements that have to be met for a child to be adopted and these requirements are not being met by the Ethiopian officials, for whatever reason, and therefore families are not going to court for their children and children are not being referred.  There's just a big standstill with all of it and there's really no concrete information being given as to why or how it can be resolved or if it ever will be resolved.

In addition, there have been a lot of ethical concerns with parts of the adoption program in Ethiopia and that has caused a lot of unease as well.  Issues are coming up right and left.  An agency was just indicted by the US court for illegal acts...ranging from paying for children to falsifying documents to basically "trafficking" kids in the name of adoption.  Another agency just completely closed their Ethiopia program (with families still in process left hanging), and then their agency as a whole went bankrupt and closed.  So there is a lot of unrest and volatility.

So, where does that leave us?  Honestly?  In a completely unknown, extremely vulnerable, heartbreaking position.  If you asked what I think will happen to us and if we will ever complete our adoption, my honest answer would be that based on all human facts, proof, reasoning, etc, No.  There isn't a lot of reason to think positively about it all right now.  But, things could still change and turn out positively, there just isn't a lot of proof for that right now.  We still trust that God has us in this situation and He is sovereign over everything. So I have hope that if it is His will, then we will complete this adoption and we will someday come home with a little one.  However, it may not be His will for that to happen.  I honestly don't know what is going to happen.  Even if we were to get a referral it would be tainted with a lot of apprehension and uneasiness because even the families who have referrals already right now are still having a hard time getting into court and getting their children home.

We haven't talked about a lot of this because really, we can never say anything for certain.  We don't know what will happen or even what is happening right now.  It doesn't look good, but we have absolutely no control over the situation, our place is just to sit and wait and see what happens.  So I can't ever give people concrete information and facts.  And it's such a roller coaster from one week to the next that I hate to drag everyone else along on that roller coaster. We've just been sitting back and watching it unfold, trying to remain hopeful that God will still redeem this situation.  I'm even apprehensive to write all of this because it could change tomorrow.  But, I thought it might help to just explain things a little bit since it's been so long and it's so volatile right now.

So where's my heart in all of this?  I don't think I can even start on that.  I don't know if I have the words to explain it all and this post would definitely be way too long to do that even if I tried!  Like I said above, it's raw and it's kind of a mess right now.  The emotions and the heart stuff are messy...there's a lot involved in this that is hard to explain.  It's difficult to sit in such a stagnant place with no control over the circumstances. It's difficult to know how much my heart has longed for this child...how I've prayed fervently over her for nearly 3 years now...how I've worn a reminder of her around my neck everyday because my heart is so in love with a precious human that I've never even met yet....how I've fallen in love with a country and a culture that I thought would be a part of my family forever....it's difficult to explain how you can love someone you've never met so deeply.  Maybe I'll write another post and delve into some of those things but for now my heart is keeping them locked up because I think I'm afraid to open the flood gates.

The only thing that gives me peace is knowing our God is sovereign and He loves us infinitely more than I'll ever know or understand.  Our story is being written right now and it isn't over yet.  I don't know how this journey will end, but it's all a part of the big story of our life that God has already written and that we have yet to see.  I know He is good, faithful, just, perfect, holy and kind and because of that I know I can trust Him.  No matter how bad it hurts, I know He has my best interest and His highest glory in mind.  That is what He's working towards and I know that is what He'll accomplish.  It may not look the way I thought it would or how I hoped it would but I know it will be best and that's all I've got to lean back on...but it's more than anything this world can give me to lean on and for that I'm thankful.  It doesn't erase the pain and the turmoil but it reminds me where to go to for my peace.  I must keep leaning on the Rock who never fails. My God is in control and there is no one more capable.  The God of the universe knows my heart and He's writing my story and I will choose to trust Him.  (man, if you can't tell I'm slightly preaching to myself right now because I have to constantly remind myself of these truths in order to stay on the path and not veer off the cliff! :)  )

Ok...my heart needs a break :)  So I'm going to stop there and hopefully that explains things a little better and you all can know how to pray for the situation. Pray for the kids caught in the middle. Pray for the government that they would make decisions based on truth, not on greed and dishonesty.  Pray that things would be done ethically and the changes needed would be made quickly and efficiently.  Pray for the MOWA director, Zenebu Tadesse, that she would have a change of heart.  Pray for the families involved, stuck in the waiting and the unknown. Pray for hearts to turn to God and for people to allow His peace to reign.  And even though I don't know if it will happen, I'm still praying for the miracle that we will bring our little one home and have her in our arms someday soon.  Thank you for praying and for caring....it means so much to us!


There was an error in this gadget