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

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Our New Normal...or not so normal! Part 2

I wanted to share more about how Brooks is doing specifically in the last post because I know a lot of you have asked and want to know more about him. But it was already waaaay too long so I figured I'd save it for another post! :)

So....a bit more about Brooks. First of all, he's absolutely beautiful, in case you haven't already noticed.   ;)

Really, the kid is a looker..his eyes are stunning and he often gets confused for a girl because of his beautiful eyes and eyelashes!  I have to be careful to put him in clothes that are clearly boy clothes!

He's doing great health-wise.  He's a little tike...short for his age, but with plenty of fat to keep him healthy!  His belly is plenty round and he's got some good "moobs" on him...apparently he's eating well enough. ;)  His doctor appointments have gone great and we haven't run into any issues thus far. We dealt with a few of the normal things when we first got home..ringworm, skin reactions, food intolerances....but it all resolved within a few weeks so we were very thankful and very fortunate!  I know a lot of people who battle some of those things for a looong time after coming home.  He has gotten a few sicknesses since being home...but that's to be expected since he's in a completely different world than he's used to.  But otherwise he's a healthy boy! 

We've been fortunate to witness some of his "firsts" as well.  There are already so many firsts that we've missed and so many missing pieces to the puzzle that I'm so thankful for the firsts that we are getting to experience.  He took his first steps a few weeks ago and is now officially a "toddler," walking all over the place!  He also got his first two teeth since being home!  I can't say I'm super excited that we get to experience that first. ;)  Teething isn't necessarily a highlight of a babies life! And he's experienced a lot of first "events" with us.....his first time in the sand, which plenty of it ended up in his mouth of course....his first time to a parade, slightly overwhelming for him.....his first family vacation, slightly overwhelming for all of us....his first wedding....his first county fair! which included his first encounter with lots of animals...his first fair corn dog.....his first french fry (which also happened to be his first finger food of course)....his first trip to the mountains...his first time having his mom catch all of his throw-up in her hands (isn't this like a "rite" of passage or something for moms with new babies?!)....his first time experiencing the not-always-so-gentle love of brothers... and so many others!  It's been fun to introduce all of these things we love as a family to him.  And he's been a pretty good trooper through all of it.  

As I mentioned in the other post, we've also started to see glimpses of "normal" attachment.  We've learned that he loves to be "chased."  It gets the most laughs out of him!  And he's full boy in that he loves to wrestle and play rough...which is good, helps him keep up with the other 2.  He's starting to copy us which is quite adorable.  He's learned how to say "shhh" (which happens to be said a lot since he has learned that he his heard much louder now that he's got more attention and there are less kids to compete with!  We'll just say he's a very vocal little boy. :) ). He's started to learn all the perfect boy "noises" from the other two....flying an airplane, driving a car, being a dinosaur.  We've even been able to teach him how to sign "please" and "all-done" which is so helpful in aiding our communication! We work so hard at teaching him things and there is so much repetition that goes on since he hasn't been here observing everything from day one.  So when something finally 'clicks' it's a big celebration in our house! 

And as far as the other 2 boys...they are doing pretty great with him.  Grahm has been amazing.  I love watching the unconditional love of a child in him and the way he has immediately welcomed Brooks into our family and loved him like a brother from the get-go.  He went through all of the waiting journey with us so it was so sweet to see his excitement as well when it all finally came to fruition.  Jack...well, Jack is improving. ;)  People ask how Jack is doing with the new brother and I usually respond with, "well, Jack is 2.  Life is rough when you're 2 no matter what's going on." ;)  He was not the biggest fan of Brooks for the first few weeks...but that's to be expected.  His role as the "baby" got uprooted and now he's learning the glorious role of "middle child."  And I don't think there is a whole lot about life that 2 year olds like anyways! lol!  Really, he's been pretty great with him and it's been fun to watch him learn to love and even like Brooks.  He's still not trustworthy to be left alone with him...for some reason he thinks Brooks' purpose in life is for Jack to ride him all the time.  You can imagine that this does not usually go well.  But overall they are all learning to get along and enjoy each other.  Brothers are a special thing and it's fun to watch all 3 interact with each other.  

We are so thankful for how the Lord has worked thus far and how we know He will continue to work.  It's crazy to be where we are now and think back over how long it took us to get here.  We serve a powerful God who is in the middle of the mess and the beauty and I'm so grateful for that.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Our New Normal..or not so normal!

It's been a little over 2 months since we came home with Brooks, forever. Two months since we traveled between two completely different worlds and brought our little guy his new home, a place that wasn't yet home to him, no matter how much it is home to us...but to a place that was completely unfamiliar to him...big, scary, unknown and altogether frightening.  I haven't shared at all on here since we came home.  Part of that is just purely because we've been in survival mode for much of the time since we touched ground in America and stepped off that plane.  I just haven't had time to share much.  Having a 4, 2 and 1 year old is completely and utterly entertaining and action-packed....but also extremely exhausting and non-stop! :)  Not to mention one of those children was a complete stranger to us as were we to don't realize how much that affects things until you experience it.

Anyways, I also haven't shared much because a lot of what we've been going through and experiencing over these last couple of months has been difficult to understand and difficult to wade through.  We've had a hard time working through it so I don't expect that people outside of the situation will automatically understand it either.  And I'm learning that that is ok.  God has taught me so much over the past couple months and he's still continuing to teach me and grow me.  One of the things I've been learning to embrace is that He sees me.  We learn that from the time we're a child...singing songs like "oh be careful little eyes what you see...the father up above is looking down below."  I always knew he had knowledge of me and what I was doing. But it's more than that.  He sees me.  All of me.  Even when no one else sees or understands, He does. Every nuance of my situation and every thought in my head and every ache in my heart.  And he isn't just aware of it, He cares deeply about it.  He's not a distant, far off God, unconcerned with the affairs of men.  He is intimately involved in all that I am and all that I'm going through.  He sees straight to the heart of me and he hears my cries, he sees every tear drop fall, every cry of exasperation, every falling down in failure, every burden of guilt...he sees it all and he cares about it.  He doesn't just want to observe my life...he wants to walk through it with me, in me, all around me.  God, God of the universe, sees me as a father and loves me far beyond words could ever express (Although Romans 8 does a good job of expressing this love)...or perhaps it's far beyond my finite mind could ever comprehend.  I'm still learning to walk in the knowledge of this and embrace all that it entails.

There has been so much more that I've learned and perhaps I'll share some more of it, perhaps I'll save it for another time...and perhaps some of it I'll just keep in the quiet of my heart, treasuring the value of the relationship that's grown between my savior and me.  But I thought I might take the time to share a little more about how things have been going since we came home.  I know so many of you were invested in our journey before we brought Brooks home, praying fervently for us and for him. And I hate to just drop off the face of the earth and not share with you how things are going now that this child we've prayed for is finally home.

I don't quite know where to's been a whirlwind of a journey since we started life at home as a family of 5.  The first couple of weeks home were tumultuous to say the least.  They are actually kind of in that place in my mind that the memory of natural child birth goes's like your mind can't handle the pain and horrific-ness of it and so it bottles it up and you can't hardly bring it back out!  We had just arrived home with a stranger.  A stranger who is old enough to have ideas and preferences of his own and who we knew pretty much absolutely nothing about.  We were severely jet-lagged, which if you haven't experienced it...just take my word for it, it's absolutely brutal. Brooks was severely jet-lagged as well and his was actually worse because he went from living in a completely different time zone (9 hours away) whereas we just traveled to a different time zone and came back home to where our bodies found their natural clock and rhythm again..after about a week. So you can imagine how exhausted we were those first couple weeks.  He wanted to start the day at 4 am and I couldn't fall asleep until 3 am, which if you do the math doesn't leave a whole lot of time for sleep.  And naps! ha...remember, I also have a 4 and 2 year old, so naps did not happen for us (and there's no "sleeping when baby sleeps" with a 1 year old like there is with a newborn who sleeps all the time. 1 year olds sleep far less than newborns and a 1 year old from a different time zone sleeps on a completely different schedule than the other children in the house, leaving absolutely no time where I was alone.)  My lovely sister kindly came over on the Sunday afternoon shortly after we were home and we finally got our one and only nap.  :)  It was blissful.  So severe sleep-deprivation was a major factor for 3 of the people in our home.

And then add to the mix parenting a child who you know nothing about and who knows nothing about you either and who you can't communicate with and who, even though he's not talking yet, he can still understand a lot of things in Amharic, which is unfortunately not the language we speak, therefore he could not understand a single thing we said.  It turns out that all of this is actually very frightening and difficult.  We had no idea what scares him, what triggers him (into massive, uncontrollable meltdowns of which I've not seen in another child his age who has not been through the trauma a child like him has been through), what comforts him, what calms and soothes him, what makes him sad, what makes him happy, what makes him uncomfortable, what he likes to eat, how he likes to eat, how he likes to go to sleep...Nothing.  We tried to glean as much information as possible from the orphanage staff but that turned out to be quite an unsuccessful effort. (At one point I was trying to find out how many ounces of formula he drinks. The answer I received was "a full bottle."  A full 4 oz bottle?  a full 8 oz bottle?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I also asked when he napped, among other things, and the response was "oh, twice, maybe 3 times, maybe not, it depends."  Again, only slightly unhelpful. ;)  The staff was amazing and so kind, we just didn't do a great job communicating because of the language barrier and he was just one of many children they cared for everyday.)  All of this turned out to be much harder than we imagined.  We knew it would be hard when we finally came home with him...but you can't really comprehend or know how hard until you experience it.

People often said, and still say, "oh, it will be pretty easy because he's still so young.  There won't be any negative effects.  He'll transition easily."  While I know the intentions are likely good, this is actually quite an ignorant comment.  You don't realize how much you grow and learn about your child in that first year of life..and how much they grow and develop.  It's like a dance where you learn to memorize each other's steps and eventually begin to move completely in sync.  When your child is scared or cries, you reach for them and pick them up and they melt into your arms.  You're safe and you are the most comforting thing to them.  When they are upset, they run to you.  You know what makes them smile and laugh and your hearts and lives are so intimately woven together.  I didn't realize how true all of this is until I began parenting a child that didn't come from my womb and who I was a complete stranger to. I believe all of this will eventually come with Brooks, but it's going to take time.  When you give birth to a child, you have 9 months of bonding before they even enter the world.  They know your voice, they know your smell, you've felt them inside of you.  I've been given wise advise from an expert in attachment to at least give ourselves those 9 months.  We're nowhere near on a level playing field with our newest son and the only thing that is going to change that is time.  Clearly God wants me learning a lot about patience through this adoption journey!  3.5 years to finally bring our son home, and then at least another 9-12 months before things feel fully natural...and there's no guarantee they will be by that point.  It's just a pretty common time frame that other people I've talked with have experienced.

I've started to see glimpses that this natural dance of a relationship will come eventually.  There are times that I know exactly why Brooks is crying.  There are things we've found that genuinely make him belly laugh.  There are behaviors we've noticed that soothe him. But there is still a LOT unknown.  There are countless times when he goes into what we call "pure meltdown mode" and I have absolutely no idea why.  And there are still times his horrific night terrors emerge and there's nothing I can do to calm him down.  (There have been some pretty humorous experiences on our behalf of trying to figure out how to calm him down...just ask me in person sometime and I will share.  I'm so glad I can laugh about some of those times now.)  And there are times his face is blank and I can tell his little mind is working hard to figure out how upside down his life got turned.  He'll wake up occasionally with a look on his face that shows he still remembers and misses the people he knew in Ethiopia.  A look that seems to say he's confused and unsure about where he is and why no one in our home looks like the people who used to care for him.  I know some of these things happen occasionally with biological children but trust me and my experience..this is different.  There is trauma in Brooks' background that most biological children haven't experienced.  People say "trauma?!"  how could he have experienced trauma? He's only 1!  While I won't go into details about his past...just try for a minute to imagine how devastating losing your first family would be.  And although he's young, his little brain still took all that in and it affected how he developed.  (Just read some of the studies done on this..and there are MANY...the facts don't lie.) And on top of that, he spent nearly a year of his life in an orphanage.  I'm so thankful it was just a year as many kids spend much longer there....but it was still a year....his first of the most important years in a child's life developmentally.  These factors have a huge influence on a child's life.  People often only see the rainbows and beauty of adoption..and it can become beautiful.  But before that happens, before the situation is redeemed...a lot of pain happens in the lives of the children who are adopted.  There is a lot of ugly before the beauty comes.  I know our beauty will come.  I have faith in a God who redeems stories and changes lives and I know he will make beauty out of our ashes.  That doesn't necessarily make it any easier in the meantime, but I do find great peace in knowing he walks with me through this and he sees me, he sees Brooks, he sees our whole family and he is working to knit it into something beautiful.  For now we can only see the backside of the threads woven together..the part that looks kind of like a mess...but eventually I pray we will see the beauty knit together on the front.

And of the biggest buzz words in the adoption world.  We were well versed in the attachment that needed to happen for Brooks.  We knew there was a lot of foundation we had to re-build in his life and great bonding that needed to happen in our relationships for him to become well attached to us.  We couldn't prepare for how this would specifically look in his life but we had tools and stories to help us navigate things.  However, people never talked about the fact that attachment is a two way street.  Just as he didn't automatically attach to us the day we brought him into our family, oftentimes, the parents do not automatically attach to the child either.  As I mentioned earlier, this takes time.  I'm not sure why this isn't talked about much...I wish it was because it would be so helpful for pre-adoptive families to be aware of.  But I think I can imagine some of why it isn't talked about.  When people ask me how things are going, I usually have a well-rehearsed idea of what to say (I say well-rehearsed because I tend to over-share and I've learned the hard way that this isn't always a good thing.).  There are a couple hints I drop and if someone is in the adoption world...they automatically pick up on it.  A few keen people who have not experienced adoption have picked up on it as well, but most of the time I get a confused, deer in the headlights look and I know to quickly move on and that's fine.  But as soon as I mention it to many people in the adoption world....they automatically open up with a flood of similar experiences and there is a full sense of "I get it.  No judgement here...I totally understand what you're going through."  So I think that there is a lot of un-due judgement from people who don't understand and there is a lot of un-due guilt in those going through it.  Hence, it all tends to stay hush-hush.  This is perhaps one of the most painful parts of the journey right now though.  I want so desperately to have the same attachment towards Brooks that I do with the other boys.  I want to have the same heart awareness, heart desire, heart feelings with him. I know how wonderful and amazing it is to feel that way towards your children.  It brings so much joy.  I see new moms and I know they are experiencing that with their child because I've been there, I've given birth and I know how that feels.  And it's unbelievably hard to have a new child and to not have that kind of relationship in either direction.  So unbelievably hard.  Just as much as I want to be fully attached to him, I want him to fully see me and know me as who loves and adores him.  It is so hard to want to be a comfort to your child, but not be.  And I can look in his eyes and tell that I'm the most familiar person to him, but I'm still not mom.  I know this because I know what that's like with my other boys. But I can't count how many people have told me this is all normal and they experienced the same thing and it just takes time.  It makes sense if you think about it.  We're strangers to each other and there's no natural flow to our relationship yet.  But I know it will come in time.  I just have to be patient and allow ourselves to build that attachment.  And it requires a great deal of faith!  Because some days it scares me and hurts so unimaginably badly.  But I must choose to put my trust in God and know that he will do the work in all of our hearts that needs to be done.  He will grow the love and attachment that we all need and he will make beauty from this.  This journey has required more faith than I've even experienced.  I've literally had to walk hour by hour with God, in constant communication because I need him so badly because this is so so hard.  I'm thankful for the communion I've been experiencing with him and for the ways he's working.

Most people see Brooks and say he's doing so well and he looks so happy.  And really, he is doing well, relatively speaking.  I know we could be dealing with a lot more issues.  He is a generally happy kid so that is what people see.  Every picture we ever got of him before we met him, he was always smiling.  I'm so thankful for his happy disposition.  However, that doesn't mean he's fully attached and he knows we're mom and dad.  He knows we're the most familiar people to him and we're the only ones who have been with him in Ethiopia and here.  But it's only been 2 months.  He is still learning who we are and becoming comfortable with us.  He's growing to prefer us which is a great sign.  But we're still working through what we can and can't do with him.  We honestly don't know most of the time...we try things and learn the hard way that it was too soon.  I remember the first time we left him for a couple hours with someone else and that night was the worst we had with him yet. As I said, we're still learning what triggers him and what is safe and isn't safe.  Just because we've passed the 6 week mark (which is a common time to stop cocooning) doesn't mean we can go full steam into "normal" parenting.  We can't leave him with whoever, we can't drop him off at people's houses, we can't put him in nursery full time...a variety of things.  But we're slowly working through what he can handle and eventually it will just keep improving.  We so appreciate the understanding and grace we've been given from many and thank you beyond what words can express for your prayers!

As I say to most everyone who asks, this is a journey and we're working through it and I thank God he's walking with us, carrying us a lot of the time!  Thank you for your continued prayers!  Until next time.....

Monday, June 8, 2015

The "Plan"

People. We leave this Friday. This. Friday. Oh my word!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't even believe it's already almost here!!!  We are so excited, thankful, anxious, nervous, ready, overwhelmed and everything else you could possibly imagine!  Basically we're a big fat mess. :)  But it's a good mess!  I don't know if my mind can hold anymore information or thoughts swirling around inside of it.  It's on information and emotion overload.  So if you see me and talk to me and I have this glazed over look and don't seem to be processing our you know why. :)

I wanted to give you all a little idea of what our plans are so that you could pray for us and be informed on what we're hoping for/expecting.

As I mentioned, we fly out this Friday, June 12th.  We leave in the afternoon to head to the airport and we'll be flying overnight on a red eye to Washington DC where we'll catch our non-stop flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!!! We arrive in Addis the morning of June 14th.

We will meet Brooks (seriously can't even believe I just typed that!!!) on Monday, June 15th in the afternoon.  For the first time, after 3.5 years of waiting, we will finally see our little boy face to face and hold him in our arms.  My mind can't even wrap itself around this reality yet!  But man I can't wait. :)

On Tuesday, June 16th we will go to court where we will make official what we already know in our hearts....Yohannes Brooks will become our legal son, grafted into our family forever.  And as soon as that happens, be prepared for facebook to blow up with pictures because that's when we'll finally be able to post pictures of him!!!!!

We have several other things that will take place while we're in Addis and then on the 23rd we plan to fly down to the DR Congo and visit the missionaries we know there and the kids that we support through Mercy's Reach.  We are so excited and thankful that we get to do this.  We'll stay there until the 28th and then things get unknown.  We are hoping to know by the 26th or 27th if Brooks' embassy paperwork is close to being completed.  There are several things that have to happen after court but before we can take him home and they all have to happen in a certain order and some things only happen on certain days and take varying amounts of time.  We are hoping that by the 28th his paperwork will be close to finished and we will be able to fly back to Addis and take custody of our son.  If this is the case, we'll likely take custody shortly after going back to Addis and then we'll have our embassy appointment that week and we'll leave to come back home on July 3rd...WITH our little boy!!!!  We will arrive in the states on the evening of July 4th.  Fireworks will be welcoming us home. :)  Seems fitting to me.

Of course, that is the scenario that we are hoping for.  However, if for some reason the paperwork doesn't process as quickly as we need it to, then we will change our flights and fly back to the states on June 28th.  We will wait a couple weeks for his paperwork to be completed and then we will get back on a plane and fly back to Ethiopia to bring our baby boy home.  Either way, we know God is sovereign and we're just thankful that we're finally bringing him home.  But, we would truly appreciate your prayers that things move quickly and he's able to come home with us on this first trip.  We'll keep you all posted.  For now...I've got to go do some more packing!!! Thank you for all your love, support and prayers thus far!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Letter to our Loved Ones

I know a lot of people, as well as us, are curious about how things are going to look when we finally get home with our little boy.  I've had several questions and we thought it might be helpful to share this letter that explains things a bit more.  

Another adoptive momma shared her family's letter to family and friends when they brought their son home from Ethiopia and I thought it was so helpful! So I borrowed some of her ideas and added some of my own, for our family and friends. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!:

Dear Family & Friends,
After the last several years of waiting, our precious boy is almost home! We know that each of you reading this letter has, in some way, supported, loved and prayed for us. Because we know your care for Brooks and our family, we want to share with you some information that we hope will best equip everyone around him to assist us in laying the strongest and healthiest foundation – emotionally, physically and spiritually.
In many ways, Brooks will be like the children who entered our family through birth; we will parent like other Christian families as we bring all of them up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. But there will be a few, initial differences. For years now, we have researched bonding and attachment in children, especially those coming home through adoption from an institutional orphanage setting.
We are confident of this: God’s design is PERFECT! His plan for parents and children is a beautiful and meaningful picture of His love for us. Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need and communicates that need. The primary caretaker (usually mommy) meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom nurses & calms the baby – which teaches him that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God’s very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will, ultimately, give children a trust for and empathy towards others.
Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. Even for children who are adopted at a young age.  The majority of brain development happens in the first two years of life and when a portion of those years is spent in an institution it can have a big effect on the child. The good news is that we can now, as Brooks’s parents and forever family, rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds. When Brooks comes home, he will be very overwhelmed. He has spent the majority of his little life in one room.  This type of under-stimulation has set him up to be easily over-stimulated in new environments.  Because of this, not only will we keep him close to us for the bonding process, but we will also kind of “cocoon” and stay close to home for a while.  He will have just been removed from the only “home” he’s ever known and brought to a completely new, completely strange and completely unknown environment.  This will be scary for his little mind and heart!
Everything around him will be new and he will need to learn not just about his new environment, but also about love and family. He has not experienced God’s design for a family in an orphanage setting. The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to be the ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe and feed him. As this repeats between us, he will be able to love deeply, and learn that parents are to trust. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once Brooks starts to establish this important bond, he will then be able to branch out to other, healthy relationships. 
Brooks will likely have, what may seem like, a lot of structure, boundaries and close proximity to us. Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on immense amounts of research and instruction from trusted adoption mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help him heal from those interruptions in attachment as effectively as possible. Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an awesome and vital role in helping our little boy settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:
The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with Brooks. This will (for a while) include things like holding, excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone – which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses or high fives are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! Brooks should know that the people with whom he interacts are our trusted friends.  This isn’t to say that you may not ever hold him or hug him but it would be best to let us lead that and please don’t feel offended if he’s staying in our arms a majority of the time.  Again, it’s just to teach him who “mom and dad” are and form healthy attachment.
Another area is redirecting Brooks’s desire to have his physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having us meet them. Orphans often have so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are “very friendly” but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. To share this is difficult for us because we have snuggled, cared for, fed and loved so many of your children. Please understand that we want nothing more than to have Brooks hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you.  But until he has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct him to us if you see that he is seeking out food, affection or comfort.
We’re obviously new at all this as well and in all of our research and investment over the last several years this is the best plan we’ve come up with.  We won’t have it all figured out perfectly but we’re so grateful for your grace and help as we navigate this new journey.  And we know God is ultimately sovereign over it all. 
We would also really appreciate your continued love and attention towards Grahm and Jack. They, too, will be going through major changes when Brooks joins us.  Life is going to look a lot different for all of us for a while and it will be hard for their little minds and hearts to adjust as well.
We know that we may get many questions from others about Brooks.  Please understand that most of his history will be kept in the quiet of our hearts and Brooks will choose when/if/with whom he wants to share when he’s older.  But we are so excited to share that Brooks will be about 13 months old when he comes home if things go as we are hoping! He’s from Ethiopia. J His full name is Yohannes Brooks and you’ll probably hear us calling him both.  He’ll likely go by Brooks for the most part but there’s something special to us about calling him Yohannes, so if you hear us interchanging what we call him, that’s why. J And most of all, he’s very loved by so many people, especially God and his family! J
We are incredibly blessed to have so many loved ones around us. We couldn’t ask for a better extended family & circle of friends for our precious Brooks and our entire family. Thank you so much for your love and support over the past several years. If you have any questions please feel free to ask at any time!

We love you all,

Callie & Luke 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ethiopia, Here We Come!!!!!

It's crazy how in a single moment, everything can change and turn upside down.  We had one of those moment this last week and we're still reeling from it all.  

At the end of last week we finally got the call we've been waiting for and were told that we have approval from the Ethiopian government and we've been given a court date to go and make our boy legally ours!!!!  It's strange even typing those words.  I'm still in shock and can't believe it actually finally happened.  We had been waiting indefinitely on this and we really had no idea of knowing when it would happen.  It should have happened a few months ago but because of the way things are going with international adoptions in Ethiopia, it could have taken several more months.  There is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to why we finally got our approval.  All I know is that I'm beyond thankful to God for His graciousness in finally granting our approval.  

The process had started to get unbearably hard and I think out of a means of trying to protect my heart, I had started to assume it may be Christmas before we would be able to travel and go to court.  We had actually just talked about making travel plans to just go visit him and at least see him sometime in August if we didn't get our approval by then.  We knew we couldn't go on endlessly without at least seeing his face and courts close for a few months during the rainy season so we had planned to make a trip during that time to just meet him, hold him and love on him.  Well, I'm more than thrilled to not have to make those plans and instead he will likely be in our home, in our arms by then.  How big a difference a single moment makes.  

I can't even describe how overwhelming it is to have this sudden change in direction.  Before "the call" we were just functioning on sheer will power and hard core faith.  We knew God is sovereign and we trusted that His plans are best but the pain was still so real and so hard.  I had to preach truth to myself everyday because the "unknown-ness" of it all and the pain of watching our little boy grow up in pictures was getting to be more than I could bear.  I didn't talk about it much because anytime it did come up, I burst into tears and the waterfall of emotions wouldn't stop.  The way things are going in Ethiopia and a lot of negative news we had gotten recently were making things look pretty grim.  Most days...most moments...were consumed with thoughts of our precious little boy and wondering if and when we would ever get to hold him in our arms and finally make him ours.  But we still knew that no matter what, we serve an awesome God and no matter what the outcome, He is good, perfect and always knows best.  And now, in an instant, our thoughts are consumed with the reality that in just a few weeks we WILL get to hold our little boy and make him officially ours.  It's surreal.  Absolutely surreal.  Everything I've thought about and everything we've planned for and hoped for for the last 3.5 years is finally going to come to fruition.  It's hard to even describe.  3.5 years of planning, dreaming, imagining what it will be like, hoping, praying, crying, pleading, wishing and all coming to pass in an instant.  I told Luke that I hope that at some point during the next few weeks before we leave that my heart and head will slow down and go back to normal for a little bit because right now they are FULL of butterflies, thoughts, plans and just a flurry of emotions and excitement.  It's all so awesome though. :)  

Thank you so much to all of you who have prayed us through up until this point.  We cannot describe what it means to us and we are beyond thankful for the part you've shared in supporting us and loving us and helping us through thus far.  Please keep praying as we go crazy putting all our plans into motion and pray for our little boy's heart as he's about to experience the biggest change of his life.  He's spent almost the last year of his life in an orphanage and now we will be bringing him home to a completely new world.  It's going to be scary and hard and unknown.  Pray for all of us as we walk this new path.  

I'll keep you updated on here what our specific plans are and I'll definitely try and update as we make our trip and see him for the first time.  Our court date is June 16th so we'll likely leave for Ethiopia around June 12th or 13th.  And we're unsure of how long we'll be gone.  We are buying one way tickets and praying our way through...following God's leading as we wait for everything to take place.  We will be in Ethiopia for 8 or 9 days and then we have planned to go over to the DR Congo for 4 or 5 days to visit the missionaries we know there and the boys we support through Mercy's Reach.  We are thrilled for that opportunity!  From there we aren't sure whether we'll be heading back to the states to wait a few weeks to go back and get our little boy or if we will be able to head straight back to Ethiopia and bring our boy home with us at the beginning of July.  It's all still up in the air and will be until the last minute.  But we'll keep you posted!!  

Ahh.....can you believe I even just typed all that????!!! I still can't believe it.  But we serve an awesome God and I'm so thankful for His grace and care.  He is matter what, He is good.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What's in a picture?

I don't think I've ever stared so much at a picture before in my life.  After 2 months of waiting, we finally got a new picture of our little guy in Ethiopia!!  I had asked for picture updates several weeks ago but it took over 3 weeks to finally get them and my heart was weary and breaking over not being able to see him.  But I'm elated to see his face again finally.  I really can't even describe the emotions or what it's like to love a child in a picture so much and to watch your little one grow up in pictures.   It's a crazy mess of emotions.  I'm over the moon to see a new picture of his precious face.  People. Seriously. He is so cute.  I CANNOT wait to kiss his cheeks and hold him in my arms.  I can't wait till I can share his pictures on here.  It's awesome to see him and know he's still there...he's still real...he's growing.....oh wait, he's growing. Yes, that's a good thing but then when I see how much he's changing in pictures it breaks my heart to see how much we're missing and how much time he's spending in an orphanage.  That little boy we first fell in love with is gone...I will only ever see him in a single photograph.  I will never hold that baby or study the details of his face.  He's now older, changing, growing up.  He's 11 months now....almost out of that baby stage of the first year.  I'm going to miss his first year.  I can't even.  It turns my heart upside to down to think of all that.  But I know that is part of this journey and so instead I turn to studying the one precious piece of him that I do have.

I never knew you could analyze a picture so much. It's overwhelming to open up that e-mail the first time...I see the thumbnail and can't wait to open it up and see his face on my screen. My heart is filled with butterflies. What will he look like? How much has he changed?  Is he healthy?  Is he growing?  Has he developed?  And then we finally see him and it's like falling in love all over again as we see the face of the little boy we know to be ours someday.  Then I start studying the picture like crazy.  After all...when you only have 1 picture of your child, you devour it like nothing else!  I zoom in so his whole face fills my screen...Grahm loves it when I do that and asks for me to do it over and over again and replies "aww...he's so cute mom."  Yep. He is.  It probably might sound strange to someone who's never been in this position, but I'm sure my adoption mom friends can relate.  I look for every detail I possibly can.  His nose looks a little damp underneath, is he sick? Or is he just hot and sweaty?  Do his eyes look tired or happy?  How much have his fingers grown...I zoom in and compare to our previous picture from 2 months ago.  I can see where even his fingers have changed.  I zoom in again and see how his hair lines have changed...his hair is getting fuller.  His ears have even changed in my eyes.  There's a lot to notice when you don't get to see someone everyday.

I drink it all in as much as I can and then I immediately save it to my phone screen saver and constantly check my phone the rest of the day just so I can see his face again. I want to memorize it so it's burned in my memory and I can bring his face to mind anytime I want.  I memorize the lines on his cheeks, his cute little button nose, the lines of his kissable lips, and I burn the image of his beautiful big brown eyes into my mind in hopes that if he lives in my mind he won't feel quite so far away.

I love this little boy in pictures.  This little boy who lives half a world away.  He's stolen my heart and it will never be the same.  I cannot wait for the day I get to hold him in my arms.  I'm thankful for the truth God loves him more than I ever will or can and I can trust His ways and His sovereignty.  For now, I'll keep clinging to that and study my picture some more.

Oh...and if I happen to see you in public and I suddenly shove my phone into your face...I apologize in advance. :)  It's only because I want you to see the little boy I love so dearly who has captured my heart so fiercely.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

An Open Letter on Religious Persecution

I've been burdened for quite some time now over the atrocities that are happening to Christians who live across the world from me.  The headlines rarely give enough attention to what is happening but innocent lives are being brutally destroyed while we sit by and do nothing.  Boko Haram has murdered thousands, especially in Nigeria, ISIS has beheaded Christians in Egypt, Syria and Libya, in Kenya, Al-Shabaab attacked a university and singled out Christians and then shot them to death, a Christian pastor from my own home state is being tortured and held in an Iranian prison, simply for being a Christian.  The stories are many. As fellow Christians, we should not be sitting idly by, living in the lap of luxury (you may not think your life is one of luxury....but if you live in America and have a roof over your head and food to eat, it is a life of luxury), ignoring or being ignorant to the plight of fellow Christians around the world.  First and foremost, we should be lifting them up in prayer daily.  God's word says, "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." (Heb. 13:3) Imagine yourself in their shoes....imagine your children being killed in front of you because of your faith in Christ....imagine your wife being ripped from your arms and brutally raped because she bears the name Christian.  Don't ignore their suffering or push it out of your mind.  If you need a good resource to help you know how to pray for those around the world, just check out Operation World.  It's a great book that gives guidance on the nations and how to pray for them.  Also, here's a guide of some ways you can pray for persecuted believers:

  • Please pray persecuted believers would know the hope God gives (Ephesians 1:18).
  • Pray the Holy Spirit would strengthen them (Ephesians 3:16).
  • Please pray persecuted believers would know how much God loves them (Ephesians 3:17)
  • Pray they would know how to share the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).
  • Please pray persecuted believers would fearlessly tell others about Jesus (Ephesians 6:20).
  • Please pray persecuted believers would have access to a Bible.
  • Pray they have the courage to remain in their homeland.
  • Please pray for believers who have been rejected by family and friends. Pray that God would surround them with a new Christian "family" who loves them and supports them emotionally and physically.
  • Pray for God to be an advocate for women who are socially vulnerable or have lost the custody of their children because of their faith.
  • Please pray that God would provide persecuted believers with jobs and safe places to live. (credits to   
I know it can be hard to imagine what we can do from this side of the world.  I often feel like I'm grasping at straws trying to think of what I can do as a stay at home mom from Idaho.  But as we were talking with a friend of ours, we decided we would try and make our voices as loud as possible.  My good friend wrote up a letter to our Congressman and sent it to him and I have done the same.  I'm going to paste the letter we sent into this post and I'm asking you to do the same.  And then to spread the word.  They may not listen...they may do nothing...but at least they won't say we didn't try, we didn't fight for the freedom of others and stand up for justice in this world.  

Here are the links to find both your State Representatives' and Senators' contact info.

Please join with us in this and send the letter.  It's as simple as copying and pasting and will probably take less than 5 minutes. Then please spread the news to everyone you know...share this on facebook...let's get as many people as possible to bombard Capital Hill with this.  Thank you so much!

Here's the open letter, feel free to tweak it as you see necessary:

I am writing to express my deep concern over religious persecution that is taking place across our world from governments like Iran’s to terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and others. Christians, along with other citizens, are being tortured, beheaded, crucified, shot, and burned alive. Women are being raped, forced to convert to Islam, and placed into slavery. Children are being brutally murdered in front of their parent's eyes. Christian Churches are being burned to the ground.

As Americans we clearly believe that religious liberty is a right of all human beings. Is America going to stand by and continue to allow innocent people to be tortured and killed in the most terrible ways imaginable just because of their faith? Why are we not boldly speaking out and taking action to stop such terrible atrocities?

I fully understand we cannot possibly stop all the evil in our world but why do we send foreign aid to many countries that do not stand up for basic human rights?

Why are we currently negotiating with the government of Iran while American citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini continues to be tortured and held in an Iranian prison day after day for doing nothing but being a Christian?

It all is an eerie reminder of the Jewish holocaust when millions were tortured and brutally murdered because of their faith and ethnicity.  We mustn't stand idly by again while thousands are being murdered.  Don’t let our generation’s legacy be one of complacency and inaction.

I strongly urge you to do whatever you can in your power to stand up for these innocent victims of pure evil. Don’t stand by while families are ripped apart and lives are being destroyed.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It Shouldn't Be Normal

We finally received the updated medical on our little guy.  It definitely wasn't the most encouraging report but there could have been a lot worse things on it, so for that I am thanking God.  But basically it stated that he is malnourished, very underweight and underdeveloped for his age.  He's hungry.  He's been hungry since his first months of life.  When I asked about any concerned mommy would...I was told that it was normal to expect that kind of health status. I knew that was true....I knew that growing up in an orphanage isn't ideal and that he likely didn't have enough to eat.  I've heard these things before.  I've seen pictures of hungry kids. I've read books and wept over stories of children who died from preventable diseases.  But then my little boy was in this situation and it all hit like a ton of bricks.  

Normal??? Normal?? Really? Normal?? It shouldn't be normal that babies are starving!!  It shouldn't be normal that their little bellies ache for food because they don't have enough to eat.  It shouldn't be normal that they're growing up in orphanages and because of the nature of the situation they develop much slower than a child in a healthy, loving family.  My heart was screaming inside of me as I wept on my bed.   

And you know, the list of things that shouldn't be normal goes on and on.  

It shouldn't be normal that 9 year old girls are "stolen" and raped repeatedly to desensitize them so they can be sold into sex slavery.  

It shouldn't be normal that babies die from diarrhea or what started as a simple cold.

It shouldn't be normal that 10 year old kids become "parents" because their mom and dad died or deserted them and so they are left to care for their younger siblings by themselves.

It shouldn't be normal that thousands of people die because they don't have clean drinking water.  Clean drinking water.  You know the stuff you let run uselessly from your kitchen sink?  The stuff you take 30 minute long hot showers in?  

It shouldn't be normal that mothers give their babies up because they don't have enough resources or money to feed them and take care of them.  

And it shouldn't be normal that a little boy half way across the world is hungry and not growing because he just  needs to be home, with a family to love and care for him.  

There are so many other heartbreaking things like this that shouldn't be normal.  And unfortunately for most of the world, these things are normal.  We live in a tiny bubble called America where it's a lot harder to imagine these kinds of situations.  But ignorance is no excuse.  Especially as Christians.  God has called us to be His hands and feet and to love the least of these.  If you don't know about these kinds of things...start educating yourself and then start doing something.  One small don't have to change the entire world but you can change the world for one person. On behalf of my little boy...who shouldn't be hungry while I feed my other 2 children 3 healthy meals a day...please start somewhere and start loving someone who needs it.  

And please keep praying our little guy home.  We're still waiting on more news...we don't have a new MOWA deadline yet and there are new hurdles and frustrations that keep popping up in the process.  We're just trusting God's sovereignty and pleading with him on behalf of the cutest little 9 1/2 month old baby boy.  And we would be humbled and grateful if you would do the same.  

(If you want more help finding resources or ways you can make a difference in someone's life and help eliminate a "normal that shouldn't be" for someone, check out Counter Culture by David Platt at . It's an awesome book and he has some great resources for some of these topics on the website.)  

Friday, March 20, 2015

And We Wait....

Well, looks like we'll be waiting some more.  After 3.5 yrs of waiting it should be a breeze for us by now! :)  
We did not hear anything from the Ethiopian gov't today, therefore no MOWA consent, therefore we have to keep waiting for that before things can move forward with our case.  We weren't really given anymore info than that so that's about all I can tell you.  Hopefully we'll get another deadline will likely be about 3 weeks out or so and then we'll see what happens again. 

I'm so thankful that I know the God who controls the universe...from keeping our earth in motion to the smallest details of helping us get our little boy home.  As hard as things may be some matter what the situation...I know that He is sovereign and nothing is happening that isn't first filtered through His loving hands.  And the plan He has for our lives is the best one there is....the one that will grow us more into His image and bring us peace and lasting joy.  There is no hope outside of this truth and I'm so thankful for the blessing of being able to cling to this truth.   When all else fails and nothing makes sense...I know the God who controls it all and He cares for me.  

Thank you so much for your prayers and support thus far.  Keep praying our little boy home!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Praying for Update

If this adoption journey has taught me anything....which it's taught me thing is to hope for the best and plan for the worst.  There is so much unknown throughout the entire process so there is often no way to predict how things are going to play out.  There is often a lot of negative information which could cause us to despair and hopelessness.  There are facts that are hard to deny.  However....we also know that with God anything is possible and if I lived the whole process with a gloomy cloud of doom over my head then I would have been done in a long time ago!  Despite how hard things may get or have been, I have to maintain hope that things could always play out the way we would like because it keeps me sane and helps me to lean into God, trusting and knowing that no matter what the outcome....He is perfectly sovereign and  He knows what's best.  Man, without Him and the hope we have in His perfect care and control, I don't know how we would have weathered this journey thus far!!  It gives me great encouragement knowing that no matter what happens, it's all being filtered through God's loving hands and nothing will come into my life without His permission and control.  And ultimately it will be for my grow me more into the image of Christ.

So...that brings me to our newest update!  We are praying and hoping for miracles, but fully aware of the reality of the situation and trusting that however it plays out, God is in control.  We have been waiting for at least a month now to get our first court date for our little guy.  This court date is called the birth parent/finder court date and it's not one that we have to be there for.  This court date also serves as a deadline for MOWA (the Ethiopian government agency in charge of international adoptions) to submit their federal consent letter which is required for us to move forward at all.  Thus far, over the past several months, MOWA has been VERY (and that's an understatement!) delinquent in issuing these consent letters.  I'm not aware of one single case that has gotten their consent letter on the first try!  Most families I know have been delayed 4-5 times before they are finally given consent.  So the way it works....the courts set a court date/deadline.  The day comes and MOWA either gives no response at all or they give a negative response, which means the adoptive parents and adoption agency need to provide corrected, new or updated documents (just depends on what they ask for).  A new deadline is set and the whole scene plays out again. The new deadline is usually set out another 3 weeks or so.  So this plays out over and over least 4-5 times for most families.  Once a family finally passes first court and receives their federal consent letter then they are cleared to set the adoptive parent court date and that usually happens fairly soon after...within a few weeks.  And that, my friends, is when we get to travel to meet our little guy and go to court to make him legally ours!!!!!!!  I cannot wait for that day!

We were slow in getting our first court date for whatever reason (there usually is no reason...we just have to expect delays).  Well, we finally were given word today that a first court date has been set for our case!!!!!! I was over the moon to finally hear this news!   I know in reality what it means....that we will likely be delayed and nothing will actually happen by this date.  However, to me it means that we are actually on the map and starting the process of being delayed over and over again.  :)  One step closer!  Like I said, and like our case worker kindly reminded us, we shouldn't expect for anything to actually happen by this date.  Chances are, MOWA will refuse to respond by this date and we will be given a new date and do the dance back and forth til we are finally approved.  HOWEVER...I'm still going to pray for miracles. :)  And I'm asking if you would do the same please?  I know what reality is, however, I also know my God and know that He is fully capable of working a miracle and allowing us to get our MOWA consent by the time our court date comes.  I will trust that whatever happens...He is in control and knows what's best.  I know His will is perfect.  But in the meantime...I'm gonna keep praying for miracles and keep trusting in whatever God works out.

So...our court date is March 20th.  Will you pray with us that MOWA will approve our case by then and we can move forward?  And if not, that God will continue to work and care for our little boy and we will continue to trust in His loving care and control.  I'm going to be praying everyday and I'd love to have prayer warriors who would join with us in storming the gates of Heaven for our little boy.

In addition, I know several families who have been waiting months and even well over a year to travel for their court date and are still waiting on their federal consent letter.  I would feel awful if we received ours and they were still waiting.  My heart breaks for them as I watch them journey through this, watching their children grow up in pictures.  It already breaks my heart to see our little boy grow up and change in pictures and we've just been waiting 3 months since we first saw his face.  Would you please also pray for these families that they would receive their approval asap and finally get to travel to meet their child?

Ps...we were so thankful to receive a new picture of him this week!!!!  A fellow adoptive mom was able to visit his orphanage and was so kind to get us a new picture aaaaannnd...get a sweet little video of him for us!!!  Oh my heart.  I can't even express how amazing it was to watch.  He is precious people.  And I can't wait for the day I actually get to hold him in my arms and give him all our love....and introduce you to him!

Thank you for your prayers, love and support!

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