Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Definition of Condemnation!

Mark and I were talking in the van about condemnation. The kids were all in the back with their headphones on watching a video. Andrew apparently was listening. He is 10. He said "We learned about condemnation in school. is when water evaporates"


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Going to Contract on our House!

Okay! So we have a break even offer on our house and a closing date of 9/12. I am excited but holding my breath a little. We will all celebrate on 9/13...It was funny because we received an offer on the day we were going to put it up for rent. And then we received an offer that was pathetically low. We would have had to spend over a year trying to pay back the money we would have had to spend to sell it. So then we counter offered and went back and forth about 4 x's and now accepted an offer that may leave us with a few hundred dollars if we are lucky. After we accepted the offer we had 5 people who were desperate to come into see the house. And then I was listening to the radio...eureka the market is looking better. Timing is everything. But I am so happy to at least have broken even and am glad to not have to pay for two mortgages, two insurances, two tax bills,etc. So, keep us in your prayers for an excellent closing on 9/12.

The kids are doing very well. They do still have some grieving (especially Ella) but are making remarkable strides in their english and in school. Jared did get in trouble today for SPITTING on another kids on the playground...OH NO! Grace took a paper plate and started fanning the flame on the stove. I had to explain to her that we don't do that outside (while I was turning down the flame). I also had to ask them not to drink the recirculated water coming out of the irrigation system in the backyard. It is funny what we take for granted. They still have so much to learn but are amazing kids. They will be tracked out soon so that should be really fun......we will go to myrtle beach for a few days...


Thursday, August 21, 2008

School pics!

Someone tell me why they didn't take Jared's bandaid off. We are going to have to get his pics taken again but wanted to share. I was out of town that morning and the babysitter left that bandaid on ....too funny.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It Was Beautiful There!

You know when we think of Africa and the millions of orphans and people dying from AIDS, TB, Malaria etc., many of us are struck with a feeling of devastation for the people. And it really is humbling to discover what our children have gone through to get to this point. They have been exposed to many diseases and yet are the healthiest kids I know. But tonight I spent hours listening as my Ethiopian daughter Grace went on and on about the wonderful and beautiful life she had before her parents died. Yes it sounded rugged but there was also a deeper sense of community that she longs for. And by American standards we have a pretty active and broad group of friends. But she told me how the adults would get together and cook and the kids would all run out and play and how daily she would have fresh milk from their cow 3 times. People would constantly share food and coffee. She also mentions fondly how she would go out with her friends to the public bathrooms or to get water. In seeing the admission pictures of our children to the orphanage they looked more like kids who had been living on the street rather than middle class kids. But I think that before the illnesses with the family that they were indeed that . They had access to a car from their grandmother's husband. One grandmother even had a television and a small refrigerator. I guess what I am trying to say is that I can understand the nostalgia she feels. Ethiopia is a beautiful country and in spite of the hardships it will always hold a special part of my children's hearts. It is a part of them and will always in many ways truly be their home. They have adjusted so beautifully to life here but have simultaneously given us a new perspective. Yes...things are rough in many of the underdeveloped countries but there is also so much beauty in the simplicity of life that we have lost here with our so called conveniences. I love my life in America but can learn something from my children about the benefits of breaking bread with neighbors weekly. We still have neighbors we haven't met. And with children playing freely without boundaries (something we are all too afraid to let our kids do anymore). I pray we can maybe extend ourselves to build a stronger sense of friendship with our neighbors and invite some in so that we can attempt to duplicate something they are missing from being away from their African home(a place that values its neighbors as family and a place that has opened up its homes to the children that have become orphans from the house next door.) They miss the weekly bonfires and get together and even though I have had many open houses it just isn't the same.....It really was beautiful in Ethiopia.

Friday, August 15, 2008

In search of Bayoush.....

I am in NY today. Last week we celebrated Ella's seventh birthday. We had about 6 little girls over and a handful of friends. Ella was very happy and seemed to enjoy having alot of attention. I wasn't able this time to give her the gift she really wanted. After her party she told me she was very happy and then later she cried. She said "why no picture of my mom?" She really is longing to remember what her mom looks like and I have to figure out if I can get an ethiopian volunteer to trek through ethiopia with a camera to find her grandmother and photograph pictures of Bayoush (our kids mother). Please pray that we can make this happen somehow. I may send a video camera too so we can see her grandmothers house and the process of getting the pics...pray we can make this happen....I already showed Ella where her photos would go....


What does it mean to have a calling? What is a calling? I remember hearing my friends talk about "having a burden". I really could only relate in the sense that I believed my calling was to music and performance. But I know I was always also called to be a mother. The 'calling" is a total passion and consuming burden that wakes you up at night that reveals itself back to you throughout the day and seldom leaves you alone. I remember the peace only came after my children were birthed and born through me. But the 'peace' was only temporary. Then an unexpected 'burden' was placed on my heart for the children with no one in this world. It also seemed that the more I prayed and longed for a closeness with God the louder the calling became. Eventually, I couldn't avoid it and felt a sense of peace when we adopted Matea from Guatemala. Then the 'burden' for Africa almost became unbearable. I remember spending hours in deep thought wondering how if everyone from the westernized world had just sacrificed one thing then maybe another mother wouldn't have to die because she would get medical care or a mosquito net to help her to not get malaria. My 'burden' bordered on obsession. I would spend hours and moments walking through my daily life with a consuming fire in my belly to fix the wrongs when it came to children with no Mothers. I do remember feeling a huge sense of relief when we decided to adopt our three children from Ethiopia. There is something so satisfying and joyous about following through with something that voice inside of us is encouraging us to do. I believe God is beckoning us to help Him to fulfill His desire to have the children of the world cared for and loved. But what I also believe that there are many people that hear the voice and reason it away with worldly logic....'what about college', 'I am not really hearing from God it is just my own wistful desires," "this will ruin our family dynamic.' Adoption truly is a calling. And I know God isn't calling everyone to adopt but He does make it clear that all of us are called to care for the orphans and widows (James 1;27). If we pray and close our eyes and really listen God will give direction. Sometimes we have to pray incessantly and wait awhile but He will call and He will answer. But we have to be willing to follow Him. We also have to be bold and have the faith when there is no proof from the physical world that He will see our 'calling' realized. He may be calling for a job change, a mission trip, a move or adoption. In facing God's calling many times we have to face so many of our own fears. I remember wondering about my kids as I waited for them to come home. I can say the reality is so much better than my fantasies. It is also harder. It is also more fulfilling. It is also sadder when face to face with their grief. But life is richer and deeper and there is a peace amidst the chaos that lets me know that regardless of the noise level, spilled milk, fighting kids and lack of sleep I will always be comforted in knowing that I listened this one time when God asked me to take a step for Him. I have been deaf to His calls so many times and maybe again in the future, but in stepping into His plans there is a blessed comfort that I will never be able to articulate properly....

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Famous quote of the day!

"Me batman you Robert" by Jared Falchook

Waiting Parents!

Some of my friends waiting for their new adopted kids in Ethiopia received bad news today. The Ethiopian courts close from August to October every year. This is due to constant rain. Recently it has taken a few trips to court to pass. For us it was 5 times and it was gruelling. But we had our referral in July 17th and didn't get submitted to Court until 10/5 finally passing in mid december and traveling at the end of January. But my friends Stacy and John in Rockford are waiting for the arrival of 4 gorgeous children in Addis. The kids have been in the orphanage for a couple of years or more. The paper work was submitted once and kicked out and then submitted again and was missing a document. Now they have to wait until October to be submitted again. So, we need to pray for them and the kids. Waiting for your adopted kids is brutally painful...but I just want to send out some love and words of encouragement to my friends. I know you feel helpless and feel as if the kids will never arrive but God's timing is perfect. It is hard to believe but they will come in the right season, right moment and right second....I remember being so angry when they told me about missing documents, missing signatures etc because you think the paperwork would be carefully looked at but it isn't always that way in 3rd world countries. Anyhow I wanted to repost a post I had up last december. This was right before our 5th time to court. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted and had come to a point of yielding to God believing that as much as I wanted these children to be officially mine I knew they were HIS and had to even be willing to believe that if they didn't come to me God would watch over them...hard to take but it was where I was at.

After the 4th time to court I was learning and practicing how to NOT panic. I decided to train myself not to go to the ‘worst case scenario’ place. And I just really had no other choice. But then just two days before the court date we received an email from the director that sounded discouraging. It said that they were not able to locate the brothers of my kids (this was discovered after our 4th time at court and courts insisted they be sponsored and had to show up to sign something...they ended up being unavailable for adoption living with grandmom) and therefore it was quite possible that we would not pass court on our 5th time. They would have the attorney bring the paperwork proving sponsorship but couldn’t guarantee anything.

I asked all of my family to pray. I had an urgency in my heart. I totally felt as if I was fighting for the lives of these children. The eve before the court date I posted this on my blog:

As I type this is it 4am in Addis. In a few hours a judge will be getting up, having his coffee, reading the paper and then setting off to court. This will be business as usual to him but to our three kids whose fate he holds in his hands it could mean a major life change for the better. Our kids won't know that this is going on. They will be in their classes at Layla House and playing jump rope at break time. All I can say is that by the time we all wake up (and some of you read this) another court date will go by and we will either have passed or have to endure another upcoming date probably 3 weeks into the distance.

I have learned a lot about myself through this journey. I always liked to think of myself as someone who had a lot of faith in God. But I have learned that I don't have nearly enough. I have learned how to force myself not to panic. I have learned to WAIT for God's will to be done even when I feel the need and desire to have the goal accomplished immediately. I have come to realize that even though our three children will be adopted there will be millions of kids in Ethiopia that will still be waiting and may live out their entire lives (probably shortened lives) without parents to tuck them in at night, correct them, hug them, tickle them.

I have spent weeks pleading with God and begging Him in desperation to bring our kids home. But my prayer tonight is different:

"Thank you God for this amazing life. Thank you for this incredible experience. Thank you for the lessons learned. Lord forgive me for having pride in believing I was stronger than I was. Forgive me for forgetting who was in control. Forgive me for believing in what the world was showing me and not holding on to what you had been showing me all along. I have spent many Christmas' asking you for things. I have spent many years asking you to fulfill my desires of worldly success. Lord I bow before you and come to you to ask you to forgive me and allow us to serve You. Allow us to minister to the call that is the closest to your heart, the call to take care of your orphaned children. Mostly Lord with our hands raised high volunteering for this blessed calling we pray that You will truly choose us. In return, we offer our home, our hope, our hearts, love, laughter, family, friends and all we know of YOU to these children (Grace, Ella and Jared). Through You all things are possible. We pray that the Holy Spirit will move the judge tomorrow to knowing that these children have an appointment with God that begins with his “YES” to our case. Mostly Lord we vow to praise You, Love You and honor You regardless of what happens tomorrow. May Your Glorious, all Powerful, Righteous Will be Done! In Jesus name...AMEN!"

The next morning we woke up to an email letting us know that we had passed court and the children were finally ours.

So we had felt like the struggle was over but soon we would know that even though we had won the big battle and the kids were officially ours there would still be another battle to face before the war would be over. We were told we could travel to pick up our children for a January 16th VISA date. This means that we go to the US Embassy with the kids with their passports and get approved for the Visa to bring them permanently into the US. We made flight arrangement. We stayed on the phone for hours trying to figure out a way to use our travel points for hotels. We arranged for my mother and sister to come to babysit. My mother would fly from Chicago. My sister would drive 6 hours with her 5 year old son and spend a week. We collected letters to be delivered to other families. We arranged for people to take care of business. We bought groceries, typed up contact info and arranged for our neighbor to pick up my mom from the airport. And then one and a half days before we are to leave we receive a call from the agency to let us know that we cannot travel afterall. I think my heart sank so deep, I then panicked about money (how were we to pay for two trips if things are non refundable-they were refundable) and then I cried. I cried mostly at the thought that our kids had now been in the orphanage for 13 months and had been orphaned for 4 years. I was sure that they had lost hope, would be devastated etc. After that crying spell I stayed silent for the entire next two days. I wouldn’t talk to my friends or family. It would appear that the Women’s Affair department was understaffed and didn’t happen to have any one in the office during the week that our children’s passports were to be signed. One encouraging adoptive mother wrote me a letter to tell me of the year they were adopting and their case was delayed for weeks because of the fact that the office had run out of manila folders.

So, next plan and new travel date meant we would be traveling on 1/27th. I prepared a note to give to a traveling mother. In it I asked her to encourage my children. I envisioned her greeting my children and pulling their distraught little spirits aside and explaining we would be here soon but to hold on to hope etc. I knew in my heart that my children would be super anxious and depressed over this news. I was happy that my new online friend would be a welcomed shoulder for them to cry on. But before my friend traveled and before I could get her the letters that would offer even more comforting, I received about 15 letters all in Amharic from our kids. Our children wrote to each sibling. The only English phrase on the papers was “I love you more than you love me”. To me, that meant “you must not love me as much as I love you because you are not here yet.” But in reality once the letters were translated I would receive encouraging notes from my children that said “Mom don’t worry. We are fine. We know you will come when it is God’s time.” And “Oh don’t worry about the holidays. We will have plenty of holidays together in the future.” I just couldn’t believe these letters. I quickly changed plans for my visiting friend and said “uh never mind”. I then sent a funny letter, stickers and cards to the kids instead. It amazed me but also made so much sense to me that these 8, 6, and 4 year old children, who have waited in an orphanage for so long, have more composure, faith and poise than their much older mother. But now that I think about it these children have only had God to rely on and have seen Him move repeatedly in their lives.

It amazes me that many of us can have so much composure under the most stressful situations in every other area of our lives. Many adoptive parents have been in the board room with some very shrewd negotiators and held their own. But for some reason being a ‘waiting parent’ can turn the most experienced litigator, stock broker, politician into mush. It is easier to wait on a multi million dollar account than it is to ‘wait’ out the arrival of your 22 month old new daughter in China. Maybe it is the feeling of not being in control of the situation. If we are good students though we will learn. I learned that there are times when I have to fight every natural instinct to try to push to move things along (just like birth). I have learned to force myself to get out of the way of God and just allow Him to be who He is and take control. I have learned that DOUBT is a joy stealer. I have learned that fear comes from a lack of faith. And I have learned that no matter how much I plead, beg, shake my fist, God will firmly stay true to waiting for HIS perfect time, not mine.

And when we finally laid eyes on our adoption papers we would see that the official completion of the adoption was December 25, 2007. God blessed us with the sweetest Christmas gift ever.