Saturday, December 11, 2010

4 Weeks of New Life

"Mommy, wash-a my hens"

Words that just came from the lips of my daughter, who is proud of herself for washing her hands on her own.
Words that would have been meaningless to her a month ago, when the only English words she knew were trash, Mommy, Daddy, I love you, and I see you.
Now she is putting together full sentences, understanding that we ALL share a last name, and taking ownership of her home, her belongings, and her family.


She began her first days  home with excitement mixed with moments of intense fear.  She was smiling and chatty most of the time, but always made sure I was in view.  If she wandered out of the room while playing and forgot where I was, she would begin running in circles around the room and screaming with a look of utter panic in her eyes and tears streaming down her cheeks.  I would run to her and scoop her up, cradling her until she calmed down.  This happened several times a day.  At night, we began with her sleeping in our room on a pallet.  She would wake up screaming, soaked with sweat.  We realized after a couple of nights that we just needed to let her sleep with us.  She CRAVED physical touch and would cuddle in as close as possible, resting her soft cheek against the base of my neck.  I would hold her close and pray over her, for peace and the understanding that she is forever home...she is safe.
After about a week the night terrors stopped.  We then put a pretty pink toddler bed against my side of the bed and she seemed excited about it.  She happily went to sleep in that bed, but would awaken 2 or 3 times during the night crying out for me.  I would reach down and touch her and she would hold my arm like a baby doll and go back to sleep.
Meanwhile, the sweet bonding continued.  We began homeschooling again three days after she came home.    She sat and colored or played with play-dough, or went upstairs with Drew to play.  The school environment at the Transition Home was very similar to our homeschool environment, so we didn't have nearly the trouble helping her understand what needed to be accomplished that we anticipated.  Her older brothers and sisters, including Katie, fell in love with her.  We had only a couple of incidents of her acting out by scratching or hitting before she realized that it was not going to fly around here and she quickly gave it up.  (Time outs are extremely effective with her.)  Her improved behavior helped them to feel much more affectionate toward her.  The big kids carried her around, talked to her, and tried to learn Amharic while teaching her English words.  DJ announced after about a week that he was "glad we got her because she is funny!"  And funny, she is.  Little Sister LOVES to laugh, and laugh hard.  She relaxed her death grip on her backpack full of possesions little by little, and soon she was sharing with her siblings...realizing that they would, in fact, give them back.
She began to attach to Mommy and Daddy remarkably well, running to me to kiss boo-boo's or tattle when Gracie or Drew did something that she deemed offensive.  She looked for smiles of approval when she did something new or learned a new word, and soaked up our hugs and kisses like a sponge.  I cannot stress enough how much she needed physical touch.  When she was sleepy, she had a hard time settling down and crossing the threshold of sleep so I would swaddle her like a baby and rock her.  I kid you not, it would take less than 30 seconds for her eyes to roll back in her head and she would be out...I mean OUT.  Sometimes I would cradle her like a baby and hold her sippy cup like a bottle.  She ate it up.  I was thankful to have read lots of Karyn Purvis books and knew to allow her to be a baby at three.  It did not take long for her to pass through that phase.
At the end of the second week, she began to recognize her new name.  We were addressing her by her new American name combined with her Ethiopian name.  Occasionally we would use just her American name to see if she would answer.  Sometimes she did, sometimes she didn't.  But all of a sudden, she got it, and began to correct me if I only used her Ethiopian name.  I was very surprised for her to make that connection so quickly.
We celebrated her first Thanksgiving home and, though she was skeptical about the most of the food we laid out, she scarfed down turkey and sweet potatoes!  I had learned that if I could name the food in Amharic, she would at least try it.  My Lonely Planet Amharic book has been priceless!    Family came and went, and another foundation of trust was laid as she realized that, once again, she stayed with us.  After Thanksgiving we put up the Christmas tree and oh the excitement!  She kept exclaiming "Chrissa-mess!  Chrissa-mess!" and marveling at the lights and decorations.  She stayed up until after 10:00 and started to wilt out of pure exhaustion.  In our desire to get the decorations up and the mess put away, we decided to see if she would lie down in her bed...the one in the room she was sharing with Gracie...just until we got the boxes put away and then we would bring her down with us.  Up until now there was NO WAY she would go to sleep unless I was in the room.  I got out my Simple Amharic for Adoptive Families book (which, by the way, has been worth it's weight in GOLD) and told her that I was here, I would not leave, and it was time to lie quietly in her bed.  I then had a lightbulb moment.  I pointed at the painting on the wall above her bed and said "That says Mari.  That is YOU."  Her eyes lit up as she made the connection.  Now that she knew her new name, she finally understood that the name on the wall was HERS!  Her face lit up and she pointed to her name, then Gracie's which was over her bed and said their names.  She got it.  This is her bed, not just a bed for her to use...but her bed that she owns.  She went to sleep and woke up, in her own bed, eleven hours later...
and has done that every night since.

Since that major milestone was reached, it is like she has always been here.  She fits in so perfectly.  She still has moments of fear, but they are becoming fewer and fewer.  Tantrums are no longer a daily occurrence.  She and I have the most funny conversations...she speaks to me in Amharic, I answer her in English, and somehow we are communicating.  It has to be a God-thing.  She learns new words and phrases every day, and we have learned so much from her.  She loves to hear us talk about Ethiopia, and points to herself proudly saying "Mari Ethiopia!"  She tells me that she saw Zebras in Ethiopia, and looks at her lifebook full of photos over and over again, naming everything and everyone in every single picture.  Her bussa (backpack ) is her most treasured possession and goes with her everywhere.  She sings to herself almost daily, the sweetest African songs that I will miss when she one day forgets them.  Thank God for modern recording devices.
She loves baths, but hates shampoo.  When the tub is full she swims like a fish, coming up sputtering and laughing and waving her arms in delight.  Watching her bathe is nothing less than glorious!  In my mind I imagine her in a river in Ethiopia, dancing in the water with the sunlight glistening on her wet body, enjoying the simple thrill of being naked as a jaybird and free.  Joy just emanates from her body.

She came home with a stowaway of sorts...giardia...a common parasite found in the water in Africa.  A week of antibiotics took care of that and we have noticed her tummy no longer looks so swollen.  She gained 2 1/2 pounds in less than two weeks and now, when I hold her, her little bottom is not so bony but has a bit of plump to it.  She sings "kee-leen up, every bodee, every where" when she puts away her toys.  She says "Mommy, com-ee" when she wants to show me something.  The Amharic word for going pee, which is "shint" has been a source of MUCH laughter around here as her siblings (and, truth be told, even her daddy!) have adopted that word with great delight!  Just imagine..."I need to go shint.  "  "I need to take a shint."  "MOM the dogs are going shint outside!"
Yes, it is just delightful...ahem.
Potty requests in public always result in stares from strangers and giggles from my kids.

The sweetest thing of all, though, are the times that she has walked up to me and said "Eh weh de shah loh."

Those are my favorite Amharic words of all.

She is saying "I love you."

Oh sweet girl, I love you too.  More than I ever dreamed.  You delight my heart, and have brought such joy to our family.  You are, indeed, a perfect fit and I will never, ever get over the thrill of watching you learn and grow and thrive.  Eh weh de shal loh, precious one.  Forever and always.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coming soon...

I wish I could convey to you the transformation I have seen in my daughter in three short weeks.  We are coming up on her 4 weeks home-a-versary and I am going to do my best to do it justice this weekend!

But here is a teaser.  She knows her name.

Her new name.

And if I ever forget and address her with her Ethiopian name, which we kept has her middle name, she corrects me.

She says her new name...first, middle, and last.

Then she smiles at me with eyes shining with joy and says what every orphaned child longs to say...


Every orphan longs to have a mother's neck to hug.

Every orphan longs to have a daddy's whiskers to rub.

Every orphan deserves what my daughter now has...

and I want to encourage you to take those first steps, for their sake.

You will never be the same.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ethiopia Trip 2...Our Last Day

Friday morning began with a bang.

If that's what you want to call it.

All seemed to be going well. We were busy getting ready for the day and Mari seemed to be in good spirits.  Katie was being playful with her and I was packing snacks, etc. in the backpack for our trip to Entoto mountain. All of a sudden I heard a scream from Katie and, with a look of utter betrayal she cried, “She BIT me!”

She held out her arm there were 4 welts popping up.  I will admit it.  I was so angry. I got down on eye level with Mari and said in NO uncertain terms... “We do NOT bite.” I said it in Amharic and I firmly held her wrists, but all she did was laugh. It just made me more mad. I was afraid I would lose it. I have compassion and I love this child, but she will NOT harm my other children. She has to get that, and get it NOW. So I told her in Amharic to say she was sorry. She planted her feet and looked at me and laughed again.

What she doesn't realize is she is child #5.

And her mama has a stubborn streak wider than the Mississippi River.

I tried putting her in the corner. I tried showing her how she hurt Katie. I tried ignoring her to make her realize she would not get attention for acting that way. She just laughed.

I wracked my brain to remember what Karyn Purvis would do...what the myriad of attachment books and website I have read would suggest.

So I pulled her into my lap, confined her, and said again “I'm sorry bay.” (“say I'm sorry)

She turned her head away from me and began pulling at my hands to escape.
I held her firmly and told her that she would not get up until she said she was sorry. She fought like a wildcat, screaming and thrashing and gagging. Katie was distressed...fearing Mari would think I didn't like her any more. I assured her that Mari has to understand boundaries and that as soon as she submits she will see that she is free and gets lots of love. The battle raged for 45 minutes and I began to fear we would be there all day. As she screamed I reassured her that I love her, kissed her cheeks, and calmly repeated the command to apologize. She was ticked off and it was clear that she was unable to believe that what had worked for her up to this point was no longer effective. But suddenly, she stopped. I saw her take a breath and I said, once again...
“I'm sorry bay.”

She opened her mouth and in a tiny voice said the magic words... “I'm sorry.”

I screamed in happiness and kissed her all over. “Gobez!!” I shouted and squeezed her little body in a great big hug. She grinned from ear-to-ear and was back to her smiley self.

Like nothing had just happened.

Wow, it worked better than I had hoped.

So we went down to rush through breakfast then went with friends to Entoto mountain with David at the wheel...which would guarantee an exciting drive.  Katie got to see the beauty of Ethiopia from over 10,000 feet up and more poverty, more suffering, more need. We took lots of pictures then went back down to Addis because word had come through Job that our Embassy papers were ready.
On the way down we stopped to shop a little more. I bought the girls dresses and a purse for Katie. As we walked a beggar came up to me. He was bent over and leaning on crutches. He held out a wrinkled hand and I gave him 10 birr. He bowed low and smiled then spoke in Amharic. Job told me he said “May God bless you and give you health and a long life.” He seemed truly grateful. My heart broke because 10 birr is less that 75 cents in the US.

They are just so very poor.  We have it so good.

We arrived at the Guest House and there was T with a passport and manila envelope in his hand! 

 “I guess you want these, right?”

Um, YEAH! He reminded me to not open the envelope and to hand-carry it to DC. He said to give it to the first Customs officer I see in the states. I took the precious cargo and realized this was IT. Paperwork and superhuman logistical feats were coming to an end! I stowed them carefully in my laptop bag, then we went with the other families back to the Transition Home to give Mari one last chance to see her friends and say goodbye. Katie was happy to play with the kids again, and I was thrilled to see Y, a boy who we had met on our first trip. He was walking with J and I gave them both big hugs. Precious. Just precious. I have GOT to get these boys home. They are just too much of a treasure to be sitting there waiting. When we finally said our last goodbyes, Katie started to cry. She didn't want to leave the older kids. I felt like crying, too. I looked at Mari as she cheerfully waved goodbye to her home for the past 8 months. I knew that she had no idea of the permanency of the change that was happening. I wondered when we would be back to see those gates open again.

The next few hours were peaceful as I packed. I loved how, despite the hurtful morning, Katie reached out to her little sister. She tickled her and played and had her cracking up with giggles. We met David downstairs to leave at 6:30 and set out for the airport.


Now let me tell you a little something:

Getting through security in Bole National Airport is a nightmare.

Getting through security with a sleeping toddler in a sling, a tired 9 year old, 3 suitcases, 2 backpacks and a computer bag is...well I will refrain from typing the word.

It was just plain H-E-double hockey sticks.

But we did it. And Katie was a CHAMPION when the pressure was on. Have I mentioned that I am proud of her? We sat down, exhausted once again, in the waiting area with other adoptive families and Mari slept away. It was after 8 pm so it was bedtime for her. There was no waking her up, she was OUT.

FINALLY the boarding call came at 9:30. We made our way to our seats and sat down, relieved. We watched as other adoptive families did the same...some with babies, some with toddlers, one with an 11 year old boy who was so obviously excited that I had tears running down my cheeks as I watched him. There were at least 15 children, formerly orphans, who were going home on this flight. Praise God.

As the plane took off I watched Addis Ababa disappear from view with tears in my eyes.  Mari was leaving the only country she has ever known.  My heart was filled with a strange mix of emotions.  But finally fatigue took over and I dozed off.

Mari slept like a ROCK. She slept the 6 hours to Rome, the one hour stop to refuel, and another hour after that! Katie did the same, and I slept as much as I could with 2 girls leaning against me and a seat that did not recline nearly enough to be comfortable. After they woke up we ate and Mari played a bit. She liked standing in her seat and looking at the people behind us. She played with her toys in her backpack and enjoyed walking down the aisle to go to the bathroom. After about 2 hours I could see boredom was becoming a threat, so I decided to take a chance and give her a dose of Benadryl.

Yeah yeah, I know. But I'm sure she is allergic to something!

Much to my relief, after about 20 minutes she started looking drowsy. Before I knew it, she was asleep again! She slept for 4 hours! She awakened in time for the last meal, and then it was time to buckle up so we could LAND! I pulled her seat belt across her and she pushed it away.

Uh oh.

She had slept through the first two takeoffs and first landing, so she did not remember having on a seat belt. All she knew was that she was being confined and she does NOT like that feeling one little bit.
Guess what was next? 
45 minutes of screaming, thrashing, kicking, and gagging. The Ethiopian flight attendants tried to talk to her, she tried to scratch them. They offered her an apple, she didn't want it. (so Katie ate it!) They even threatened to call the police! (HUH? Seriously? Do they think she CARES?) Then they told me I could take it off of her until just before landing, but I knew that was in no way the right thing to do.

“We have two more flights until we get home. She has to wear a seat belt. She has to learn. If I take it off she will think she can scream and win, so I have to make her wear it.”

They understood but I could tell that was not the course of action they would have chosen.  Thankfully I had missionaries sitting near me who later told me they were praying. I could not thank them enough.

Less than ten minutes before landing the screaming stopped. I praised her and she smiled. Ahhh, she is no dummy. We touched ground and I took off her seat belt when we pulled up to the gate. We got off the plane and I looked at my little girl who suddenly had become and American citizen.

One small step for man, one giant leap for an African orphan girl.

We went through Customs and Immigration, thankful to have a chatty officer who kept Katie entertained with crazy stories of punching out Pit Bulls while he stamped passports and paperwork, then we picked up our baggage, checked in at Delta, then went straight to Five Guys Burgers for American food.
It was only 10am, but those burgers tasted like manna I tell you!

We then boarded our next flight and I apologized to the lady in front of me in advance because I figured we would have a battle royale when seat belt time came, but I was wrong! She put that thing on and smiled at me like “see what I just did?” Katie and I both could not believe it. She was so proud of her little stinker self! 2 more flights, and not one tear about seat belts. I was utterly and completely shocked!

Finally, after 26 hours of travel through 9 time zones and over 13,000 miles, we landed in our home state. We stepped off the plane, went through the gate, and walked across the carpet to the scene I had dreamed about so many times.
And there they were.
I was weeping as soon as I saw the crowd. Mari, who had been fussy in her exhausted state, looked at me in surprise to see the tears on my cheeks. Katie was practically skipping because she was so excited. I was gasping for breath as my emotions crept up and took hold of my body. They were cheering, kids were jumping up and down, and Mari...
she was beaming.

We fell into the arms of our family and friends. I wept like a baby as all the stress and emotion finally let loose, and I handed Mari to her Daddy. She looked at him in awe. She reached up with her tiny hands and held his cheeks, and he enfolded her in the sweetest of bear hugs much to her joy. There was not a dry eye in the house.

It was truly a glimpse of Heaven.

Mari had a friend from Ethiopia there to greet her as well. He is 5 and, when he came up to hug her, he said to her in Amharic, “You are going to be OK.”

We rejoiced together and then had a little surprise when Michael W. Smith walked up. He saw the goings-on and stopped for a moment to watch. I did not see him, but a friend did. So he followed him and said “I understand if you are tired and you can totally say no to this, but I want to you know what is going on up there.”

So because of the graciousness of this man who had just flown in from Europe and had to be as tired as we were, our first picture as a family of 7 has Michael W. Smith smack dab in the middle of it! He was so nice, so friendly, and I just loved how we got to share this moment with someone who also has a heart for Orphans and has a platform on which to share it.

Then (You would think we were going home by now, right?”) we headed back up to the lobby to greet that sweet 11 year old boy that was on the flight to DC with us! He had talked with Mari on the plane and shuttle in DC and was so helpful with her. His family lives about 20 minutes from us and I just had to see his sweet face coming home. It was so worth it. He had tears of joy in his eyes and he recognized us, which was precious. I hugged him hard and said “You are HOME!” He just nodded and smiled with those big tears pooling. . And now here they are, 2 Ethiopian children living in the same community with their new families. God is so good.

And now we are home. Mari is home.
She is adjusting, processing, and figuring out just what is going on. She has moments of fear and panic, but seems to be bonding with us quickly. The kids are wonderful with her. She responds well to them all and likes to laugh when they laugh. She loves to cuddle and is getting lots of it as we try to help her feel loved and secure. God is working. She is learning. And I will be so thrilled when she can speak enough English to tell us what she has been thinking.

I am just so very glad to be home. Having all five of my babies in the same room at last is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I pray I will never again take it for granted. I am so very, unbelievably blessed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ethiopia Trip #2 Day 3

We all slept through the night. Can I even find the words to express what a huge blessing that is? I dove into the Word after all was quiet, prayed until I could pray no more, and finally I fell asleep with my Bible on my chest. When I awakened at 6:30 I was in much better spirits. I dressed, got the girls ready for the day, and went downstairs for breakfast. We chatted with other families while we ate and then headed out with David, Job, and T for the AWAA Transition Home. I had a meeting with the pediatrician and social worker and Katie really wanted to spend more time with the kids so we planned to spend as much time as possible there. I asked Job to explain to Mari that we were just visiting her friends, and she nodded in understanding. I was concerned that she would think I was taking her back. Earlier in the morning she had become very agitated and I finally realize she was muttering the name of our State over and over. I can only guess that she can't figure out why we have not gone home yet.
On the way to the TH she fell asleep, so when we arrived she did not see the excited faces of her friends or hear them all calling out “Mari!” like she was a rock star. It was so sweet. I carried her up to the front porch and sat on the sofa while waiting for her to wake up. On my way to the porch I kissed a dozen beautiful faces and caressed a dozen more sweet heads. I got hugs from every direction and beautiful smiles flashed at me just for being there. I gave a zillion hugs and watched as Katie took it all in. This was reality. Every single one of these children are orphans who wait. Her sweet heart was growing again.
Eventually Mari woke up and we spent time playing on the playground, hanging out with the other kids, and I met with the professionals who wanted to give me whatever information they could before we left Ethiopia. The doctor gave me some antibiotics and eye drops because she had some respiratory junk going on and had woken up with her eye matted shut this morning. I told them honestly that yesterday had been a hard one, but today seemed to be better. She seems to be “getting it” and learning to obey me. Thank God. The nurses had a FIT over Katie. They all thought she was Ethiopian, of course, and just praised her for her beauty. She ate it up. One held her arm up to Katie's and showed her that their skin is exactly the same color. She also said that Katie looks like her, but is more beautiful. I loved watching them fawn over her like that.
We spent time talking with the kids over age 10 who had just finished school and were heading back to their Transition Home. Katie soon was begging me to bring J and his sisters home too. I reminded her of the fact that we have all we can handle in Little Sister right now! I felt so relieved to see her making an effort with Mari again. Tickling her, chasing her, and laughing with her which resulted in Mari repeatedly asking for Katie whenever she was out of sight. WHAT a relief. After we returned to the Guest House we tried to Skype but could not get more than three minutes of broken conversation. My mother-in-law reminded me of something that I knew after I told her how hard yesterday had been on Katie and me: that there is “someone” responsible who wants this to be hard. And she is exactly right. I will say that today was SO much better, though. The incidents of scratching and hitting were fewer and she seemed to want to obey at times which made me very happy. I also noticed that her man-sized appetite was gone. She barely touched food all day. I then witnessed the mother of all tantrums in our room at the Guest House. I still am not sure what caused it: She just fell to the floor and started screaming. Any attempt by me to console her just made her more angry and scream louder. I calmly sat on the bed and she calmed down after almost 30 minutes. She started asking for Katie. Katie was downstairs preparing to eat dinner and I had left her down there since I was just running to my room to grab a cup for Mari. By the time we came down she had eaten and was wondering where in the world I had been. I couldn't believe they had not been able to hear that tantrum! One of the ladies who work at the front desk tried to get her to tell what had made her upset but she refused. I though maybe her tummy was hurting so I allowed her to have Sprite, which brought back her smile. But she didn't touch her dinner, then started crying and told me she needed to go to the bathroom. Apparently her tummy had been hurting.
She was very calm after that. We went up to our room and Katie climbed into bed, exhausted, while I got Mari ready for bed. I tried a different approach to bedtime. Instead of announcing it I suggested...matah, matah? (night-night?) She started to shake her head, but stopped. She then looked at me with happy eyes, gathered her things around her, and smiled.

“Matah matah, Mommy. Ciao.”


It made me chuckle.

“Ciao?” I laughed. “I'm not going anywhere...just night-night.”

She smiled and got out a toy. I watched from across the room as Princess Tiana gave the teddy bear a kiss and Mari just chattered away to them in Amharic. She then began to sing...oh my heart. I listened quietly while turning on my computer, and before I knew it she was quiet.

And asleep.

Praise God.

I checked the internet connection and saw nothing but a big ol' X where the green bars should be, again. ARGH. I was missing my babies at home SO much and Katie really needed a dose of sibling silliness to curb her homesickness. I clicked on the Skype button out of habit and realized that my home computer # was lit up. How can that be possible with no connection? I clicked on the “call home” and was SHOCKED to hear DJ answer, loud and clear. I ended up getting to talk with them for nearly 30 minutes...with NO internet connection! Yes, I believe that was a miracle. God KNEW my heart and my limits and he KNEW I needed to see a sign from Him after the last couple of days. And in His mercy he sweetly gave me that very small, yet oh so significant gift of a miraculous internet connection that did not exist without His intervention.
Just to be sure, after the kids had all talked to Mommy and I had been able to say I love you and miss you to them all while listening to them play and giggle with each other as they played computer games. I tested my theory by attempting to log on to the internet. Nothing. Not even a blip.

Yet I had been able to Skype.

You will never convince me that it was anything less than the work of God.

So here I am on my last night in Ethiopia. I have watched my daughter see the world through new eyes and experience TRUE boredom. (I don't think I will have many more complaints of that in the near future!) I have seen her notice the lame, the poor, and the suffering for the first time. I have watched her heart soften when the face of an orphan boy lights up because she smiled at him. I have seen the shock on her face as we walked into a room with 20 babies propped up with their bottles as the nannies constantly work to keep the bottles upright and reposition those who crawl away so they can finish theirs. I have laughed with her while 6 children all try to peer into her mouth at the same time to figure out what those metal things with blue bands are on her teeth. And I have cried with her as she realized that her little sister comes to us wounded. What a rollercoaster of emotions she has experienced this week. I am so proud of her. I am so VERY proud of her.

Tomorrow we are going up to Entoto mountain to see the beauty of Ethiopia from up high. We will receive Mari's passport and visa, and then we will begin the long journey home with a little girl, once orphaned, to unite her with her forever family...our family. Her life-change has just begun. She can't possibly imagine what awaits her in America. I pray with all of my heart that it is a journey that will draw her heart to Jesus, knit our family closer together, and bring glory to the Father to the fatherless who, once again, has shown Himself faithful. I pray all of my children will love each other fiercely. And I pray that every one of those precious children that we have had the privilege of loving this week will soon be home, with THEIR forever families, where they belong.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 2...Embassy

I hesitated to share this entry.  Day two was a very tough day.  I was afraid it might discourage others from stepping out and adopting, but after reading this I realized I need to follow her advice and share the hard parts because this is real life.  Adoption is wonderful, but like anything else God calls us to, it has it's hard, gut-wrenching moments...moments of doubt and fear and struggle.  If it didn't, God would not need to be part of it.  So here is day 2 in all, glory.  I hope this helps you to be prepared for the hard times as well...because I can now tell you they are just a temporary struggle.  God has already brought Mari so far.  Maybe that is why I can post this, because I know so much more now than I knew then.  So be encouraged, friends.  God is in the transformation business!

Ethiopia Trip 2 Day #2

Last night was not exactly restful. Katie, who was sleeping off the nausea, awakened at 10:30 after having slept 8 ½ hours. No big deal. She knew I was sleeping and just lay there waiting and hoping to fall asleep again. Mari, on the other hand...

She had become very restless in her sleep. Since I did not know if she stayed dry through the night I decided to take her to the bathroom in case that was the reason for her squirminess. I then put her back in bed with me, but she had had what SHE considered a nap and was ready to par-tay. I, on the other hand, was going on my 4th hour of sleep in 48 hours and had not one shred of energy left. Not one. I tried everything to get her to lay back down but she refused. She started the scratching again and I am ashamed to admit I felt completely frustrated. I would rather she just CRY. I said to her firmly, with her hands enclosed in mine, “Do not scratch me, Mari. Do not scratch me” in Amharic. She looked at me with surprise, and stopped. She then started to whine and jump up and down and point and I could not for the life of me figure out what she wanted. Finally I grabbed the right thing...the Fisher Price iXL that I had brought to keep her entertained. Fine, I thought. If it will make her be quiet so I can sleep she can play with it.

She played with it for over 2 hours. I awakened at 4:30am to find her asleep with it next to her head. Thank God. Katie had also dozed off again, but awakened after totaling 11 hours of sleep. Her tummy was queasy again so I gave her a dose of medicine which, thankfully, did the trick. But jet lag had taken its toll and we were both wide awake, knowing we would regret it later.

Mari awakened around 6 and was in good spirits. Katie happily picked out her outfit and we dressed her together. I was glad to see Katie enjoying her. We ate breakfast downstairs then met Job at 8:30 for the Embassy appointment. Hallelujah, let's get this thing over with!

We went through security and arrived to a packed waiting area. Oh dear. We sat in the only 2 empty seats, with Mari in my lap, and began the wait. She did fine for a long time, and I was very happy with her ability to sit still and just be calm. After nearly an hour of it, though, she began trying to climb over my shoulders and invade the personal space of everyone within a ten foot radius. When I asked her to sit down by me, the scratching began again. Sigh. I again firmly told her not to do that, and she listened after about the third time. At one point, she was sitting in a chair that had vacated next to me so Katie asked to sit in my lap. Immediately Mari began trying to push her off and get in my lap. THIS was a battle I was going to win. I showed her that I have room for both of them, and she is NOT going to make Katie move. She did not like it one bit. Finally she gave up and shared my lap, and I prayed this would not be a major battle when we get home.

We got called to window #15 after 1 hour and 15 minutes of waiting and I was so very thankful that we were being interviewed by the only American that I had seen in the entire compound. He asked me the expected questions, exhanged paperwork, and that was that. We left, relieved to have this last paperwork and government hurdle over with. I was officially ready to get home to the rest of my babies...homesickness was setting in.

We decided to kill time by sightseeing, so we went to the Museum at the University of Addis where we saw all kinds of Ethiopian artifacts. At one point we went up a flight of stairs and there was a genuine stuffed lion...poised for attack. Mari nearly did somersaults to get away when she saw it. I felt so sorry for her. I had noticed that in a book I read yesterday, when she saw a picture of a lion she had covered it with her hands and mumbled as if to say “I don't like this.” I could only assume that they were a real threat in her native region. I quickly took her into a different room to wait for the group to move on. Later in the tour, we were shown a replica of a mud hut with a grass roof. She LIT UP with excitement, pointing and smiling and showing absolute joy at the familiarity of that little house. This type of dwelling was her home for three years. She obviously remembers it, and remembers it with fondness. Another reminder that she is being taken from everything familiar. How is she going to handle so much change?
The next item on the agenda was to take Katie to the Lucy Restaurant for a taste of authentic Ethiopian food. We ordered roasted lamb with injera. She liked it, but her stomach was still not 100 percent so she only ate a small amount. Mari, on the other hand, ate two platefuls of her own and part of mine. Where she put all that food in her tiny body is beyond me! It was amazing. After lunch we did a little shopping where Katie picked out a couple of souvenirs and I bought Mari a brightly colored cloth soccer ball that had caught her eye. Then we went to the coffee factory where I could finally purchase some of those delicious beans to take home. Oh the smell! We stuck around the lounge and enjoyed a macchiato, which Katie was thrilled to be allowed to try, and Mari was wild. I mean WILD. I could not drink my coffee fast enough to get her out of there. She went up to a total stranger, grabbed his coffee spoon, and stuck it in her mouth before I was even completely out of my chair. The she bolted and ran full speed OUT THE FRONT DOOR. Where there was a street. And cars. Oh no. I caught up with her, thankfully, because she was distracted by a group of 20-somethings chatting just outside the door at the only table on the sidewalk. She was laughing hysterically when I caught her. I took her back inside, paid for our coffee, and we went back to the Guest House where, over the course of the next 2 days she would make at least 6 more escape attempts.  Thank God for the security guard.  Sigh.  
We went up to our room and Katie looked at me with big, scared eyes, and burst into tears. She wants her Daddy. She wants to go home. She misses her siblings at home. I pried a little deeper because I knew in my heart where this was coming from...and I was right.

Mari is not fun. Not yet. She is out of control, willful, and can be downright mean. Katie was realizing that the “hard days coming” that we had tried to prepare them all for are, indeed, hard. This was hard. Katie doesn't really like her right now, and I don't blame her. She is manipulative and I am trying to figure out the best way to handle much discipline I need to enforce without jeopardizing the attachment process. It is hard. No other way to say it.

Oh, what a heyday the enemy was having.

We talked it through and I assured her that we can trust God. I promised that my love for her cannot and will not change. I told her that, even though it doesn't feel like it right now, Mari is the answer to her prayers, but God's answers sometimes require work and sacrifice from us. This is TOUGH to explain to anyone, but especially a child. We talked about what Mari has been through, the grief process she is walking through, and how she will get better and learn to behave. As I spoke, I was certainly speaking to my own doubts and fears which were surfacing and threatening me. All this time, Mari was playing quietly on her own, being a complete angel.

This is hard.

We went downstairs to the courtyard and Katie kicked a soccer ball around with a 7 yr old boy who was here with his parents. His mom and I began talking and she soon shared that they were adopting a 2 ½ yr old girl who apparently wasn't overly excited about her new mom or brother. Misery loves company, so I just admit that her confession of uncertainty made me feel better. The doubts are normal. I am not the only one. I watched, so very proud of my big girl, as she gave Mari a chance to play and very obviously tried to build a bridge. It was beautiful to watch her choose that path despite her emotions, and it appeared to pay off. We went inside for dinner and, once again, Mari ate enough to fill a grown man, then settled on the couch to chat with another family. By this time it was approaching 8 o'clock, and Mari was falling asleep against my shoulder. I carried her upstairs, took her to the potty, put on pj's, and laid her in bed.

And she popped right up.

Oh for crying out loud.

She was into everything and I tried lying next to her to settle her down, she only started picking at my face and ears. I tucked her in tight and she climbed out of bed. I tried to tell her in Amharic that she needed to lay down and go night-night, and she slapped me. I grabbed her hands and firmly said “no”...she tried to scratch my hands and I told her “do not scratch me” in Amharic. She then decided she was angry with me and wanted nothing to do with me, so she just sat up in the bed stubbornly for several minutes while I tried to reassure her that she is loved and it is time to lay her head on her pillow. She acted like I didn't exist. She tried to get out of bed again and I finally just picked her up and paced the room with her. She was so tired by now that she stopped fighting, lay her head on my shoulder, and went to sleep.

Thank God. 

I paced the room some more, pouring my heart out to God in a good old-fashioned pity party.
It was a big one.
He patiently listened while I complained and worried and whined. He sweetly reminded me that I have to remember where she is from. I told him I was afraid for the hearts and minds of my first four children who were all either missing mommy or missing daddy because mommy had taken her to Africa. I told him I was afraid this was going to be a big fat failure and that it would strain my marriage and my relationships with all of my children. He rocked me as I rocked her. He whispered to my heart that I can fight some battles later, but that I need to trust Him as this is His doing.

I know, I know. What a switch from yesterday.

Once I was SURE she was asleep I laid her down in the bed, tucked her teddy bear in next to her, and kissed my sweet Katie who had fallen asleep during all this.

Lord, it is done. She is here. And I am weak. Protect my children from the enemy's lies. Help them love this child who, right now, seems unlovely. Create in her a clean heart and remove the violent defenses that she resorts to when she is upset. And give me eyes to see into her heart...your eyes. Let me love her well, help my husband as a father to give her the stability and balance that she needs. Heal her wounded heart. Renew her spirit.

And, Lord, let this all be for your glory...that we will raise up a generation that would have been lost, but instead has been found. I pray for all of us, who anticipate the coming weeks and months with mixed emotions, to rise up in joy and be lead forth in peace. Bind our hearts together, Lord, despite my mistakes and weaknesses. Knit us so closely that we cannot imagine life without her. Keep the enemy and his lies a hedge of angels around us as we journey home and help her settle into her new life. We can't do this without you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

And now, without further adieu...

I will be posting my journal from each day of our week in Ethiopia this week. I pray reading these entries will bless and encourage you on your journey, wherever you are!  

Ethiopia Trip #2

Day 1-Tuesday

After 24 hours of travel, we made it to Africa!
Katie and I arrived here in Addis this morning at 8:30 am. To say we were tired is an understatement. We were exhausted. Katie did not even sleep 30 minutes during the flight because she was so beyond excited. She was glued to the window whenever the sun was up, and practically dancing in her seat when the sun was down. I even tried a dose of Benadryl, to no avail!
Upon landing at Bole International Airport, the crew immediately turned off all the air. Within minutes it got HOT on that plane. Fatigue, altitude, and heat are not a good combination and they sent poor Katie diving for the nearest barf bag as we exited the plane. I felt awful for her.
We went through customs, got our visas, exchanged money, and got our luggage then headed out to be greeted by Job's smiling face. What a welcome! It is amazing how different I felt this time. The familiarity was so comforting, and his easy smile and enthusiastic hug were well-timed for both me and Katie. She was thrilled to meet one of “the guys” she had heard so much about and he, in turn, made her feel very important to be in AFRICA. We chuckled about the workers who all mistake her for an Ethiopian and begin speaking to her in Amharic. It is hilarious. She gets this funny blank look on her face and they soon realize their words are falling on American ears and switch to English. But she loves it. She loves that she looks African.  

We were driven to the Yebsabi Guest House and given a room on the 3rd floor with three twin beds all in a row. We quickly unpacked and organized because our first order of business was going to be to get Little Sister and begin life with her!  Katie could hardly wait. We made the bumpy drive to the Transition Home, much to her delight, and her face lit up brighter than sunshine when that familiar blue America World sign came into view. I handed Job my camera and camcorder, then waited in the drive as he went to find Mari.

Just a few minutes later he rounded the corner, smiling. I blinked and there she was, grinning from ear to ear. I squatted down and held out my arms and she ran FULL SPEED into them and gave me the biggest hug her little body could dish out! Katie was squealing with delight, exclaiming “Oh my gosh, Mom, she is SO CUTE! Oh she is so TINY, just like you said!” The girls began examining each other, Mari quickly realizing that Katie was the girl in her pictures and deciding instantly that she liked her. Katie had her giggling and soon was carting her around on her hip. What joy, what a fulfillment for my daughter who has prayed her heart out since she was 7 years old and now here she was face-to-face with the fruit of all that prayer.

Job ushered Katie into the schoolroom so she could be greeted by the children, and they did it beautifully. They sang for her and their sweet faces were beaming with smiles. I could tell she was overwhelmed and just trying to take it all in. The reality of life here, of the poverty and need, was eye-opening. I felt like I was watching her heart grow before my eyes.
We spent a little time with the children while they had a very short break from their schoolwork, and I gave the older ones journals in which they could write, draw, or whatever. They were very happy about them. One special boy, who had stolen my heart on the last trip, I gave the book “Because of Winn-Dixie”. He was thrilled. It was so nice to do something special for them, as they are often the recipients of candy but I thought they needed to be blessed with something on their age level, something meaningful. I pray those journals are windows into their hearts for the parents whom I KNOW God is preparing to come for these children.

Mari's nanny came to say goodbye, and I was blessed to have the chance to thank her for taking such good care of her. Her eyes filled with tears as she whispered last words to her, and I choked back a lump in my throat as she walked away. We got into the van...all of us...and Mari's eyes were filled with excitement. We drove across town to the Makush Italian Restaurant and she was nearly asleep when we pulled up to the curb. I hoped I wasn't making a mistake by taking her out during naptime!
We sat at a table with 4 other families who are here this week for court. What fun to hear their stories! They were all fascinated with Mari, of course, and she seemed to not be phased by the attention. She and Katie split an order of lasagna and, upon taking the first bite, she declared it “yummy” and proceeded to chow down. She also drank enough water to fill a bathtub! We then went back to the Guest House and I began to grow concerned about Katie because she was obviously not feeling well again. Now she was going on 24 hours without sleep and her body was letting her know that she had to stop. We went up to our room just in time for her to...well, she got sick again. She burst into tears, wanting her Daddy, and I just wanted to bawl. Here we were, in Africa, her dream come true, and she was miserable. I decided that the enemy needed to be reminded just exactly Whose we are so I got down on my knees and did just that. I prayed with tears running down my cheeks, laying hands on my daughter and beseeching the Lord to put a stop to the sickness so she could see all that He has for her this week. As I prayed, Mari quietly crept up beside me and laid her little hand on her sister's leg. She reached up and wiped the tears from my eyes and smiled, and I knew in that moment that the Lord was, indeed at work.
It was 2:00 in the afternoon and Katie fell asleep. She slept for 2 hours while Mari and I went downstairs to do our Embassy paperwork with Duni. We skyped Daddy and I loved watching her try to figure out exactly where he was! Job, upon finding out Katie was ill, sweetly ran to a drugstore to get some anti-nausea medication. Bless him. Then we went back up to the room to check on Katie. I roused her out of her sleep and she said she was feeling better. She changed into her pajamas, drank a little water, took her medicine, and was back asleep within the hour. As I write this it is 8:30 pm and I have a feeling she will sleep easily until morning, praise God.
I hit the wall, myself, around 6:30. I decided it was time to give Mari a bath and try to settle her down for bed. I had NO idea how that process would play out. The Guest House has no bathtubs, only showers, and she obviously had no intention of getting in the shower. So I filled the bathroom sink with warm water and bathed her there. I undressed her for the first time and my heart hurt to see how her body still shows the signs of a child who has been chronically malnourished. Skinny arms and legs and a distended belly...I was taken aback by the reality of what she has survived. She giggled as I put “smelly good” lotion on her beautiful brown skin and slipped on her very own pink and white pj's. She LOVED the pj's...just kept looking at herself over and over and touching the fabric. We brushed her teeth and I laid her in her bed. I lay down beside her to read a book, pray, and then put on my pj's and crawled under the warm covers. Within 5 minutes I saw her gathering her teddy bear and book. She walked around to my bed, smiling, and crawled in next to me. She snuggled in close and was sacked out within a few minutes. I dozed off with her warm little body next to mine and wondered when was the last time she had done this...with her birthmother? With her nanny? About an hour later I awakened suddenly to those DARN dogs again. (Thankfully I brought my noise machine this time! I quickly plugged it in!) It took me a moment to realize where I was and who was next to me, then it hit me...she is here. She is HERE, next to me, asleep in complete peace and trust and...she is my daughter. I looked at Katie and at Mari and marveled at what God has done. My heart ached to be home with all of my children together and have a great big snuggle fest on the big couch upstairs. I thought about Drew crying on the phone earlier because he misses me, Gracie telling me she can't sleep well because I am gone, and DJ saying so sweetly that he loves me. How in the world did I ever deserve this? What have I done to be blessed with all of these precious, beautiful children? I am so unworthy, yet the Lord has done this. He has given me a husband whose heart is so tender that he willingly said yes to God's call to adopt and melts at the sight of one of our children smiling.. He has blessed me with a man that my children absolutely adore. Time with him is their greatest joy in any given day. And together we get to walk this beautiful road of adoption not once, not twice, but FIVE times.
Yes, indeed, my cup overflows.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It has been one week since sweet Mari's "Gotcha Day."
4 days since her homecoming.
And today I listened as she giggled from the depths of her belly with her older brothers and sisters.  I watched as she ran to the door beaming with arms held wide as Daddy came home from work.
She is home.

I have so much to say.  I kept a journal in Ethiopia again that I do plan on sharing.  I just need some time to edit it and go over the details.

But I now have 5 kids playing around my legs as I cook, clean, etc. so I know you understand if it takes me a few days to, y'know, get it together.

Oh it is all so good.

Adoption ROCKS.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What I Want You to Know

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"--but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.  1 Corinthians 2:9-10

In three days I leave for Ethiopia.  My heart and spirit have been pondering the reality of that in new ways as of late.  The Lord is showing Himself, once again, through this miracle called adoption.  He is revealing a new facet of Himself that my heart had previously been unable to fully grasp.  As I look back, I realize He has done this with every adoption we have experienced...

With DJ, I learned of the tender Father-heart of God.
With Katie, I learned of the sweet mercy of God.
With Gracie, I experienced the sheer power of God.
With Drew, I learned that God is the ultimate Giver of Gifts, beyond all we can ask or imagine.

All four adoptions brought me to my knees at some point.  All four children have obviously had the Lord's hand upon their lives.  I have always struggled to put into words the beauty of the bond, the perfection of a family created by the Lord.  It is a love that transcends blood-ties or racial similarities, that somehow makes common the uncommon, that makes a barren woman a happy mother of children.

Praise the Lord. (Psalm 113:9)

With Little Sister, who for the sake of this blog will be given the name Mari, I have been given a glimpse into what lies in store for all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ...the redeeming love of God.

Just imagine...

A three year old little girl is waiting for us,
                           just as we are waiting for the return of Jesus.
She has met us, is learning to trust us, and has been told that we have to go away "for a little while"
                           but that we will return for her.

Are you seeing the parallel?

She has been broken and grieving, yet she awaits the fulfillment of the promise.
She awaits the home we have been preparing for her.
She awaits a new name, a new family, and a new future...

because she has been adopted.

Do you see?  This is your story as well.  This is my story!  WE have been adopted into the family of God!

But wait, it gets even better...

Katie and I will board a plane and fly across continents and oceans to bring Mari home.  We will greet her with open arms and "I love you's".  We will present her with new clothes (Just writing that makes me breathless.  Imagine the moment when we are clothed in bright white linen before the throne of God!) and bathe her from head to toe.  We will escort her across those same continents and oceans, and we will land on U.S. soil...where she will suddenly be a citizen of a new country.  We will carry her tenderly through the gates and step out into a crowd of family and friends...her family and friends...who have prayed her home.

Friends, if you ever get the chance to witness an airport reunion or the reveal of a newly adopted child, that is the closest you will ever come to experiencing our Heavenly homecoming on this side of the veil.  Those of us who have been blessed to walk the road of adoption get to live, in a very small way, this spiritual reality.

That is why I am so passionate about adoption.
That is why my heart breaks when someone allows fear or finances to squelch the calling of God.
If God has called you to this, it is a privilege.  He funds what He favors, and adoption is no exception.  It is an unbelievable experience.  It is eye-opening and heart-wrenching.  It is watching the broken become whole, and marveling at the thought that God could use one broken person to heal another.

Yes, there is fear.  Believe me I have dealt with my share of it as we prepare to bring home a three year old who has never had boundaries.  I have been on my face, praying for the Holy Spirit to speak to her heart when she is unable to understand my words.  But if it was easy, there would be no need for God...nothing to bring glory to Him.  He continually reminds me of the broken state I was in when He called my name.  Oh how I praise Him that He did not expect me to get it together and get cleaned up before He would be willing to adopt me into His family.  If He can change me, He can change anyone.  If He can heal me and bring purity to a previously impure heart, then He most certainly can and will take a little girl and conform her to His image and knit her heart securely to her family.

See the parallels.  Be willing.  Let God use you in ways that you thought were impossible.  Be the hands and feet of Jesus to the 147 million orphans who so desperately need the love of an earthly father and mother.  If you have been called, start walking forward and don't look back.

And when Jesus returns, bask in the familiarity of the moment.

From the depths of my full heart,

Sunday, October 31, 2010

7 days!!!

Last night I dreamed that I was doing multiplication drills with Katie while flying over Italy.

Which I totally plan to do, much to her chagrin.

But I figure with 16 hours of a captive audience the girl will be a whiz by the time we land and she will thank me when her math assignments suddenly becomes a breeze!

7 days.  ONE WEEK.

I am so excited!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

8 days!

Last night I dreamed I was going through customs with my daughters.  I think I know why.  I was instructed last week by our travel coordinator to say to the agent..."Here is my daughter's packet and she has an IR-3 Visa" in order to be SURE they stamp her passport correctly.   It is a big deal because if they give her the wrong stamp she will not be an American citizen.  But with the correct IR-3 Visa, which she gets because we met her before our court date, she will be an American citizen the second she sets foot on American soil.

That's one small step for man...or at least Little Sister.  But one giant leap for mankind!


I guess I am so afraid of forgetting to say that in all the hustle and bustle of our arrival that I am rehearsing it even in my sleep.  The list of lists in my head is endless right now.  Homeschooling plus adoption plus international travel is stretching my organizational skills to the max!

But it's ALL good.

8 days till liftoff.  10 days till Little Sister is in my arms forever.  I have a BIG blog post cooking in my scrambled brain that I hope to hammer out in the next few days.  Until then please keep us in your prayers as we prepare our hearts and home for our sweet girl.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

WE GOT THE CALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kristen called this morning at 8:30 and we have an Embassy appointment on NOVEMBER 10th!!!  Oh my word I can hardly breathe!!!  My nine year old daughter and I will be booking flights today as soon as I can get the fragmented parts of my brain back together!

Oh praise GOD!  She is coming HOME at last!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

3 weeks waiting.

It has been three weeks since I held my youngest daughter.  Three weeks since I nuzzled her and promised I would bring her home.  Every day that passes creates an ache in my heart.  I want her to come home and see the brilliant gold leaves that are raining down in my back yard.  I want her to feel the cool Autumn breeze on her face and marvel at the birds visiting our feeders.  I want her to sit in my lap and color while we do school.  I want to hear her precious African accent drifting through my kitchen as I make her lunch.  I miss her.

Lord, please let that call come this week.  I know you already have her homecoming day set, but this longing in my heart is almost painful.  That Nov. 10 appointment would be so, so good.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


So, as I have mentioned previously, I have been fine since coming home from ET.  It was very hard to leave miss priss, but I have no doubt she is happy, healthy, and safe along with receiving lots of love and affection.  She understands that we are coming back for her.  She gets it.  So I didn't fall apart or worry constantly about her.  I came home expecting it to be a short window of time before I saw her again.
Ok, so consider that window shut.
My mama's heart suddenly hit urgent mode in the past couple of days.  I don't know how to explain it other than to say it is TIME.  We have heard nary a word from the Embassy, and the next available appointment is Nov. 10.  After that is Nov. 23 and, well, that is just not ok with me.
I want the 10th.  Period.  So I am praying for the 10th.
Will you pray with me?
I would SO love to get a phone call this week saying we are "good to go."  And if that happens you will likely hear me shouting from the rooftops in joy!

Tonight I could tell Little Sister was on the hearts of us all when my youngest son piped up from the backseat of the car and said, "Mommy, she is gonna be happy about me."

Yes, she will.  I have no doubt that she will think her barely older big brother is the bomb.  Because, well, he is.  He is so darn cute I could just eat him up.
Which I do, right in the folds of his sweet little boy neck.

Happy sigh.

Monday, October 18, 2010

2 weeks down...

? to go.

After 5 days of killer jet lag I was so happy to be able to stay up past 8pm and not wake up before 4 am.  Now I am back to my usual night-owl self and faithfully hitting snooze at 5:40 so I can meet my bud, K, for our morning walks.

It has been 2 weeks since we passed court and Little Sister officially became our daughter.
2 weeks since I held her.
2 weeks since I smooched her soft cheeks and ran my hands over her braids.

I was prepared to miss her.  And oh, do I ever.  But I was not prepared to miss Ethiopia.

But, man, do I ever.

I miss the sounds and smells that wafted through my window in the Guest House.
I miss the African accents all around me, and the slower pace of life.
I miss the children who surrounded me with up-turned lips, waiting for their kiss.
And I miss the feeling of my world being so very, very big.

I am still processing all that I saw in Addis.  I don't know if I will ever fully grasp what happened in my heart over there.  This is so much bigger than I am.  This is more than "bringing a child home" and providing a family to an orphan.  God is weaving something more beautiful than I ever imagined as we walk through each step to bring LS home.

I find myself unable to find the words to describe just what it is like in Africa.  The children there wait, hoping and praying for a family.  The older ones especially broke my heart.  Not because they are pitiful or sad, but just the opposite.  They have a faith and peace about them that I have never seen in children that age.  They trust God completely as they wait for Him to provide a family for them.  Day by day ticks by.  Day by day their lives move on.  Day by day their prayers rise and their hope holds fast.  My children, who have so much, can't comprehend what the children of Africa live through each and every day.  I am so thrilled that my oldest daughter will go with me to bring LS home, but I truly wish we were all going.

We will.  I know we will.  And I pray it will be sooner rather than later.

So until homecoming day arrives, we wait and pray.  God is teaching me so much through all of this.  I pray I can live it out to His glory.

And maybe even inspire someone else to do the same.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My last day in Addis Ababa

Court Date #2

I awakened early so I could get ready and have breakfast before meeting in the lobby at 9am. Yonas and Eyob greeted me and told me they were still waiting for word of my court appointment so we stood outside and chatted for a while. Around 10:00 word came that my appointment was to be at 1:30 so we decided to go ahead and go to the Transition Home so I could see Little Sister one last time. She greeted me with smiles and hugs...she is definitely a morning person! She had freshly braided hair, arranged in perfect rows, and was wearing the giraffe print dress with green trim that I had sent to her in a care package. It was so sweet to actually see it on her...and at a size 2T it was still big on her tiny frame. I pulled out her bear from my backpack (and I came armed with carmela...learned THAT lesson!) and showed her how to press the paw to hear her brothers and sisters says “We love you!” Boy, did that ever elicit the smiles! She pressed the paw over and over, happily showing it to the other children who came out of school for a break. We bounced a rubber ball for a while and she ran and skipped around the playground before showing me that she wanted to ride the merry-go-round. I sat her in a seat and began spinning it slowly. When she was on the opposite side from me I would say, “I see you!” and then when she got close I would say “kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss!” then smooch her on the cheek. She loved it. We did that at least a hundred times and after a while she would say “I see you!” on her own. She is so smart. Eyob gave me the 10 minute warning of our impending 11:45 departure and it just hit me that this is it. I am leaving today. I picked her up in my arms and just looked into her face. I held her close from head to toe and told her, “I will be back for you. I will not leave you an orphan. You will come home and be with Mommy, Daddy, and your brothers and sisters forever.” I kissed her little knows and breathed in her earthy scent. Eyob came to fetch her so we could go, but she clung to me. He said in Amharic, “You want to go with her?” and she replied, “She is going by herself.” So apparently she understood what was to happen, but just didn't like it. I kissed her face all over and carried her back to a room with toys and she was easily distracted by a deck of colorful cards so I slipped out, tears running down my face.
Eyob and Yonas drove me to Makush for one last lunch. They remembered me telling them that it was my favorite restaurant we had eaten at so far. I had lasagna again, but it tasted like cardboard because my stomach was in knots about the impending court appointment. I drank Coke out of the bottle one last time and bought a small painting of a church with crosses from the art gallery. The owner came up to me, introduced himself, and took my hand. He started speaking:
“I just want to tell you how, when Americans come here to adopt children, I am thankful from the bottom of my heart. Anything you want to buy...I give you a discount. I believe that individuals can change the world, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.” I was speechless.
Then we headed out to the courthouse.
We arrived and I was thankful to see the door was open. Hallelujah! We walked in and entered a tiny elevator...4 people made it feel very crowded. We went up to the third floor and walked down the hall to the waiting area outside of the courtroom. There were only a handful of people there, but over the course of 30 minutes it filled up and soon there were no seats left. I kept watching the faces of the women who were obviously coming in from the countryside. I knew sweet girl's birthmother would appear in court with me, and I studied faces to see if I would recognize her. Duni feared that, because of the full waiting area, we might be there for a while but we were the third case called in.
I entered the room after Duni, which was not more than a glorified office. I turned and behind me, with her head lowered, entered a frail, thin, sad woman. It was her. It was Ribka, her birthmother. I cought her eye and smiled, and she smiled back. A beautiful sight on such a weary face. My heart broke for her as the judge asked her questions through the interpreter who shifted from Amharic to Wolaytegna with ease. Then she quietly left the room and it was my turn. I sat in the seat where the interpreter had been. The judge greeted me and asked,
“Do you have children?”
“Yes, I have four.”
“Wow.” Seriously, she really said Wow!
Then she asked, “And you want to add one more?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Have you studied about Ethiopia and Ethiopia history? It is very important as she will have questions when she is older.”
“Have you taken any training on issues regarding international adoption?”
“Are you prepared for the changes an Ethiopian child will bring to your family?”
I wanted to say, “What changes? She looks just like her siblings!” but I just said, “Yes. I am.”
She then asked, “Have you met her?”
“Yes, I have.”
“And you want to adopt her?”
“Yes, we do. Very much.”
Then she took a stamp in her hand, pressed it to the document on her desk and said the words that will forever change our lives...
She is yours.”
Signed, sealed, delivered.
Mission accomplished.
I left the courtroom and saw Ribka sitting on a wooden bench. She looked at me with huge brown eyes that were trying to speak what our language barrier would not allow. I walked up to her, and put my hand on her cheek. I kissed her cheek and wrapped my arms around her as she did the same. She is so thin. So very thin. I smiled at her, hoping she could see in my eyes that I was so grateful to her and so sorry for her at the same time. She looked into my eyes and I could see hope, relief, and gratitude. We stood there for a long time...two mothers loving the same daughter. One who was resigned to the hardship she has faced, the other wishing she could bring health to this frail body so she could someday see her daughter again.
I followed Eyob and Yonas out of the courthouse, and this time we took the stairs. My knees felt like Jell-o, and my heart was a strange mix of and sorrow all mingled together. We passed. She is ours. I have five children! But her sweet birthmother also has five children...and will never forget her youngest whom she has entrusted to God...and to us.
It was planned for us to meet back at the guest house so I could visit with Ribka and ask questions. How awkward. We had to wait a while for the translator to arrive, so Eyob and I walked down to a CD store where I could buy music that miss priss knows and loves...a song called Chembalala. After my purchase we walked back to the Guest House and within a few minutes Ribka arrived with the translator. She wore a ragged, long skirt, a plain gray shirt, and a traditional scarf with faded colors in the trim was draped around her shoulders. On her head she wore a green and white bandana tied at the nape of her neck. We sat at a table, she at the head, me next to her around the corner, and I longed for the ability to talk directly with her. After a few awkwardly quiet moments Eyob told me I could ask questions. So I asked the only thing I could think of...
“What to you want her to know?”
Through two translators the answer came...
“That she has two older brothers and two older sisters. I want her to remember them.”
I promised her that she would remember them.
She told me that after her husband passed away she could no longer work. She moved in with her father, but had to sacrifice much to provide for her youngest.
I showed her the photos I had printed for her and she said, “I am happy that she is with you.”
Then she told the translator and Eyob that what affected her the most was when I came up to her after court and embraced her. That had made her feel very good. Eyob said he, too, was affected by it. But I can't imagine doing anything else...
Eyob translated the letter I had written to her into Amharic, then the translator did the same into Wolaytegna. As they worked through each sentence she would nod and say “ashi...ashi...” which means “Yes” or “Ok.” She then told Eyob that she had to sacrifice much to take care of her daughter, but now her daughter would be in a family where she would know God. That made her happy.
It made me want to weep. I promised her that our daughter would know she loves her, and that she would love her as well. I also told her that I love her, and she nodded again saying “ashi...ashi...”
Eyob took a couple of standing next to this tiny, frail, starving woman who was growing old before her time. She carefully removed her scarf and tried to arrange her hair, which was braided much like her daughters. I hugged her and kissed her, and she did the same to me. She stepped back and bowed, and I wanted to kneel at her feet and wash them. We embraced once again, looking into each others eyes and trying to speak with our hearts what our words could not say, and she retied her scarf before walking out with her head down.
I watched her go with a heavy heart. I looked at Eyob and said “She is so thin.”
“Yes,” he said. “Life has not been good for her.”
What a sacrifice. What love from this precious child of God who put the needs of her daughter before her own. What faith to trust God and us to put her little girl on an airplane and raise her up in, what is to her, a completely different if not unknown culture. In this moment, I was living the reality of our adoption in Christ. Bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, snatched out of the claws of death by our loving Father, and placed into the family of God where all things are made new.
Lord, raise sweet Rebka up out of her circumstances. Give her health, and joy, and the necessities of life so she can live to see her daughter again.
And help us live up to this raise our children to be willing to do anything for You.

As I finish this journal, I am sitting in my room at the Yebsabi Guest House. It is 4:57pm, Ethiopia time. It was a warm day today, but a light rain came around 2:30 and cooled things down. I can hear children playing outside and the sound of hammering off in the distance. My bags are packed for my flight home and I will meet Eyob downstairs at 6:30.
I can't believe this journey is over. I am so ready to go home, but will miss many things about this country which is now forever in my heart. I wonder what God will do with this? My mind will be processing what I have seen and experienced for a long time. What do I do with what I have learned?
When our little girl comes home, I will have so many things to tell her. I want her to remember as much as possible about her country, to be proud of her heritage and for the Lord to use her to reach out to her people. I pray I will never forget what I have seen, smelled, heard, and tasted during this week. Through it all I can say the Lord is faithful. He is mighty to save. He is here amongst the poorest of the poor as much as he is present in our beautiful American churches. Joy is evident the faces of the people, in the hospitality and care they offer to strangers like me. Joy is not a result of wealth or good circumstances, but it is a result of being part of something bigger than yourself...being part of a community, the Kingdom of God coming together to take care of its own.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hello From Ethiopia!

I have been here for a solid week and this is the first time I have been able to log into Blogger.  Hallelujah!  I have been journaling all week and wanted to share this incredible journey with you.  I have one more day here before flying back home but what follows is what I have seen, smelled, tasted, heard, and felt over the past 8 days.  I will never be the same.  I pray that if you are feeling the nudge from God to bring one of His precious orphans into your family that this will encourage you to move forward and trust Him to build your family despite the obstacles you may face.  He is so good, so faithful, and the lessons He is teaching me through this experience could not have been learned any other way.

So without further adieu...

Our Journey to Little Sister


I have so much to share, but know that I will be completely unable to do it justice with my words. We left home yesterday morning after kissing our four sweeties goodbye and spent the next 24 hours in airports and on airplanes. We flew to Dulles airport in DC first, then had a 4 hour layover. We enjoyed a late lunch of Quesadillas and chatted with the friendly Ethiopian bartender who shared that she dreams of going back to Addis to open and orphanage with her mother so they can care for the children. Talk about an instant heart connection! Then we boarded Ethiopian Airlines flight 501 to Addis Ababa via Rome, Italy.
As we took off from DC I kept remembering the verse from Isaiah that was given to me by the Lord through a prayer-warrior friend...You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace. The mountains will bow down and the trees of the field will clap their hands....
I clung to His Word as we climbed to 35,000 feet and soared over the Atlantic ocean while tears stung my eyes. The sun rose at 1:00am “our time” over the ocean and, despite the fatigue, I was captivated. It began as a sliver of light that quickly illuminated the sky and the ocean below us. We caught glimpses of southern France, marveled at the Great Pyrennes mountains poking sharply through the clouds, and took in the lush Italian countryside. We saw an ancient castle on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Amazing.
We landed in Rome to refuel and breathed deeply when the cabin doors opened which allowed a burst of fresh air to whisk through the aircraft. I enjoyed the friendly banter of the Italians who restocked the plane and marveled that our African flight attendants shifted so easily from Amharic to English to Italian.
Then, once again, we were airborne and this time we were headed straight for Africa.
Straight to my daughter.
We flew over the Sahara desert. I have never seen anything so barren and intimidating in all of my life. Not one sign of life anywhere. The terrain gradually became more hilly as we crossed the Ethiopian border.
Slowly, slowly, we descended. I felt sad that the sun was setting, meaning I would not get a good view of the city til morning, but then I looked up and there was the evening star shining brightly...completely alone in a cloudless sky. I felt the Lord speak to my heart, reminding me that He is right here with us on this journey. We may be traveling across the globe, but His eye is still firmly fixed upon us. I smiled as I looked at the thousands of lights flickering across the city and realized that one of those lights is my daughter. She is here. WE are here, in the same city with her. I wonder if she felt it in her spirit when we landed? I pray she did. As we touched down in Africa tears ran down my cheeks.
Next we went through the chaos of getting our Visas, exchanging money, and retrieving our luggage. Our drivers, Yonas, and Dawit along with Dawit's uncle Abrhm, and Eyob met us with friendly smiles. Another family who is here for their embassy appointment joined us and we were whisked off for a WILD ride through the city to the Yebsabi Guest House.

Oh. My. Word. People milled about everywhere, many sleeping on the sidewalks, bright and shiny new buildings being erected next to tin shanties, meat markets with huge slabs of beef hanging in the window, prostitutes and derelicts loitering, and children the age of mine running around with no parent in sight. Men urinated in the street and dogs barked from unseen alleys. I was officially experiencing culture shock.

We arrived at the Guest House and looked at each other. We were instructed to meet downstairs at 9:30am to receive our itinerary for the week. Oh...and we will go to the Transition Home after lunch. To meet her. We are here. We are going to have her in our arms in a matter of hours!
We unpacked, got online, and Skyped our babies back home. What a relief to see their smiling faces and hear their sweet, happy voices! We spent some time in the Guest House Lobby checking email and updating Facebook, then prepared to go to bed.


We met Duni, the AWAA Ethiopia Coordinator, at 9:30. I was taken aback by her accent...or the lack thereof! She sounded completely American when she spoke to us, but perfectly Ethiopian when she spoke Amharic. What a beautiful and interesting woman that God has so perfectly placed here in this position! She helped the other family get started on their Embassy paperwork then briefed us on what to expect. The best surprise was that we would not be seeing our sweet girl after lunch, but at 10:30! In ONE HOUR! Be still my heart.
After our meeting we grabbed our backpack, looked at each other with the “here we go, can you believe this is happening now” look, and got into the van for the bumpy ride to the Transition our daughter! We got out of the van, and suddenly we were surrounded by a sea of beautiful brown faces. Children everywhere, begging for hugs and kisses, saying to us in English “I love you so much” and holding our hands, our arms, whatever they could grab, until the nannies shooshed them away so we could go into the family meeting room. I quickly handed my cameras to Eyob, hoped he knew how to work them, and sat on the faded, slipcovered couch wandering when she was going to enter the room. There was a flurry of activity as the drivers and nannies all chatted and, suddenly, this tiny little girl walked into the room. She passed between the men, gaves us a glance, and headed for the toybox. Well, at least she didn't run out of the room screaming! We tried to get her attention but she was basically ignoring us...the strangers. Eyob spoke to her in Amharic, telling we are Mommy and Daddy and does she love us? I, of course, had NO idea what he was saying so imagine my surprise when she jumped into my lap wrapped her little arms around me! Tears welled up in my eyes as I held her and kissed her and whispered Eh-weh de-shal-lo...”I love you.” The I said it to her in English and she said softly “I love you so much.”
Oh my. I did not expect her to speak one work of English, much less be able to say THAT.
Daddy crouched down next to us with a smile on his face and we attempted to put her at ease, to somehow help her feel our love despite the language barrier. It didn't take long for her to start giggling and soon she was throwing back her head and laughing at the smallest silly gestures. Dropped toys, surprised looks by us when her sunglasses fell off the top of her head, and tickles elicited huge laughs from this tiny girl. She pointed at a picture in her hand on a deck of cards joined by a ring. It was of a man with his daughter. She pointed at us next and said “Daddymommy” in one continuous word. I was Daddymommy, and Daddy was Daddymommy! I worked with her on separating us...Daddy, Mommy...and getting straight who was who. Soon she was proud of herself for getting it right, pointing at me and saying “Mommy” then pointing at him and saying “Daddy.” We spent a sweet hour just loving on her and playing with her. We noted that she is not, in fact, perfectly happy all the time. A few times I could see her uncertainty when she tried to scratch or bite us. I learned the Amharic word for “gentle” is “cus”...a word that I feel I will be using frequently! But though she did act out a bit, when I firmly took her hand and said “cus” or “no” she responded. I am sure she was trying to figure us see why we are really here and probably a bit afraid of what we are going to do with her. God only knows what she has experienced in her short life. But I was heartened by the fact that, when she accidentally whacked me in the head with a toy, she immediately looked concerned and softly touched my face while speaking softly in Amharic words that I could only interpret to mean she was sorry and did not mean to hurt. I just hugged her close and smooched her neck until she giggled. How I love her giggle. We then took her up to the front porch of the Transition Home where we were served coffee...Ethiopian style.
Oh sweet deliciousness.

Along with the coffee were were presented with plates of popcorn! I offered it to Haven but she shook her head “no.” So I took a few bites and made a big deal about how yummy it tasted and before long she was eating out of my hand! Soon, she started feeding me, which delighted me because that is a huge sign of trust. Then she was feeding Daddy and giggling when he spit out an unpopped kernel. Then Dawit signaled that it was time to leave and go to lunch, so we kissed her goodbye and left. So much to process, so many images burning into our hearts.

We ate at Makush, an Italian Restaurant and art gallery, and had FABULOUS lasagna and real Coke out of the bottle. Yum. I enjoyed visiting with Duni and learning more about her fascinating life. During our meal, she reached into her bag and pulled out a treasure...a DVD with a documentary of our daughter's life. Interviews with her birthmother and her grandfather, along with footage of her village and even the hut where she was born. She said she felt like this should answer most of our questions, but anything else we need to know we could ask on Friday after court when we were scheduled to meet her birthmother. After lunch we hit the road (road being a loose term in Ethiopia!) bouncing through potholes and dodging donkeys and pedestrians to head back to the Transition Home. Little Sister came right out, carried by her Nanny. I held my arms out and she came to me easily. She laid her head on my shoulder and relaxed while I squeezed her and kissed her sweet head. The Nanny then said “Before you come, she cry. Now she happy.”

We spent another hour and a half playing with her, noting that she scratched less this time and seemed more trusting. We walked down the street to see her temporary home, the second Transition Home that houses children over 2, and she proudly showed me her bed. Again we were surrounded by a sea of hopeful faces, by chubby hands grabbing at us, by lips poised for a kiss from whoever would be willing. I laughed as a little boy entered the room after all the children went outside and LS apparently was letting him know that this was HER time in no uncertain terms! The girl definitely has spunk and sass! We then went through the kitchen and heard the strains of the Veggie Tales theme coming from a little TV where all the kids sat, glued to the screen. What a surprise! The cook called out to her from across the yard and they began a silly sweet banter which included the cook asking “Do you hate me? Do you hate me?” and when LS said Yes just to keep the game going they would both laugh and stick out their tongues! The cook noticed my Ugandan paper bead necklace, which I was wearing as a bracelet, and gestured to ask if she could have it. Of course I said yes, then put LS in her lap to take a photo. She thanked me over and over, this precious old woman who has showered my daughter with love and laughter for months, and I put my hand on her shoulder and said “You are welcome. Bless you.”

We settled Little Sis in front of the TV and snuck out so she would not cry. We came back to the Guest House, tired and happy, and Skyped the kiddos at home, then had a dinner of vegetable pizza which hit the spot. We chatted with other families here to adopt and enjoyed all the stories God is weaving together, then went up to our room to settle in for the evening.


I really can't believe how easily we have adjusted to the time difference. We are tired, but not exhausted. We have stayed so busy that, honestly, that is the source of our fatigue...not jet lag. We awakened Wednesday morning anxious to get back to the Transition Home. The drivers, who by now are becoming our friends, were waiting with smiles and whisked us off after breakfast to spend more time with our sweet girl.
The drivers...I have so much to say about them. Dawit “David” is at the wheel, bounding over potholes, dodging pedestrians, donkeys, goats, and dogs, and driving up on a sidewalk if needed to get down the insanely unkempt roads of Addis. There are no seatbelts in the van, so we hold on for dear life and laugh about how boring the traffic in the US will seem when we get home! We call the driving here Demolition Derby, but in reality we have not seen one car accident in the entire city. Not one. They all think it is crazy to have stop signs in the US and to have to stop even when no one is coming! Eyob “Job”, who has walked us through the week and will accompany us to court, has eyes that sparkle with joy, a contagious laugh and loves to share about life in Ethiopia. He loves the children so well, smothering them with hugs and encouraging them as they wait for their families. Yonas is the well-dressed, quiet one. He loves to learn about our lives, and easily shares about Ethiopian history, geography and politics. He also loves the chidlren at the Transition Home well. The older children especially will come up to him for a hug and stay by his side, just content to have his arm draped over his shoulder. Robel, who handles the families here for their Embassy appointments, has been with us for much of the trip. He has traveled all over the world and is very good at explaining the politics and varying cultures of the country. He also has helped prepare us for what to expect on our next trip. Last, but not least, is T. T is a young, but mighty, man of God. He no longer works for AWAA but still chooses to hang out with us because he just loves it. He is a youth pastor here in Addis who also goes to seminary. His love for the Lord and his incredible grasp of English (he seriously does not have an Ethiopian accent when he speaks from years of watching American TV shows!) make it very easy to banter with him. He is on fire for Jesus, and on fire about what he sees the Lord doing around the world. He had been asked by another family how he felt about all the Americans who are coming through and adopting Ethiopian children. His response is one I will never forget: 
 “I see it as the Kingdom of God coming together to take care of its own.”
Amen, and amen.
So our second day at the Transition home began with a bang. We were standing on the front porch waiting for Eyob to bring her from the second TH. She walked through the gate, saw me, and ran full speed into my arms.
Oh my heart.
We had a wonderful morning together. I brought her Gerber yogurt snacks which she loved. She called them “carmelas” which I now know means candy. She would eat the carmelas and drink my bottle of water, dribbling all over the front of her shirt. When I flicked the water off she cracked up, throwing her head back and laughing hard. Her laugh sounds like tinkling glass. When it was lunchtime we kissed her and reluctantly handed her over to the nanny, tears flowing. She kept telling the nanny in amharic “I don't want to go. I DO NOT want to go. I want to stay.” Friday is going to be so hard.
We went to lunch at the Amsterdam restaurant, which is owned by an Ethiopian man who spent a few years in Holland and brought back the food with him. It was so good. I had a club sandwich that was filled with chopped chicken, eggs, tomatoes, and other flavors that I did not recognize. On the side was french fries! What a sight for sore eyes! As we ate, our companions noticed a woman sitting behind me. They were talking excitedly in Amharic about her, chuckling and staring. Finally they let us in on the fact that she is the biggest movie star in all of Ethiopia! I offered to take their picture with her and they were literally beside themselves. Eyob approached her with starstruck eyes and I expected he and Robel to stand beside her so I could take their photo. Instead, they put ME in the picture with her! So I have a photo of me with Meseret, who I am sure wondered why this American would have any clue who she is!
We went back to the TH after lunch to spend more time with our daughter. Before they brought her to us, though we got the sweet opportunity to take photos of and deliver care packages for 9 little ones whose families are waiting. It was such a neat feeling to be on this end of that experience! I remember how excited I was to get those first photos and wanted to be able to send beautiful pictures to their families. Some of the babies had apparently been awakened from naps, though, and did NOT want to be put down by their nannies. I really did not want to send photos of crying babies...not exactly what a waiting family is hoping for. I did my best to elicit smiles for their parents' sake! The sweetest delivery for me was the one I made to a 10 year old boy. His English is coming along, and we are able to communicate pretty well with him. I had seen him the day before and told him that I had a letter for him from his family and he lit up with a smile, saying “Remember me for my family.” His wise parents had had their letter translated into Amharic, so my camera snapped away while he read their letter. I then handed him the English version which they had sent for him to look over and, to my surprise, he began reading it too! To see this child's excitement, his understanding that there is someone in America who loves him and will come to bring him home, is beyond my capability to describe. He is being adopted. He has a family. Healing has already begun just with that knowledge.
After we finished with the photos they brought Little Sister back in to us. Once again she was so happy we were back. She and I sat quietly for a long time while she ate “carmela” and bantered with the other children who came up to share the love. After a while, the scratching and biting began again. I am not sure why, but I feel it is her attempt to not feel out of control. I noticed that the other children will tease her by trying to pretend I am their mother and she gets extremely agitated. It also happens if she is frustrated. In watching the way the children play and interact with each other, I think that is just not a boundary that has been taught. She will even turn on herself, scratching at her own neck. I will be reading Karen Purvis' books like a mad woman until she comes home so we can nip these behaviors from day 1!
Another thing that worried me is that she obviously was in pain. Her teeth are in terrible condition, huge cavities and decay are very evident. One tooth was causing her great distress and she kept grabbing it with her fingers and crying. It broke my heart.
While at the TH, we had the opportunity to meet with the social worker who gave us all that she had as far as background information. Not much that we didn't already know. We were also supposed to meet with the pediatrician, but he got hung up in traffic so that appointment got postponed. Eyob assured me they would have the doctor look at her tooth, so we left to get ready for the evening's activities. She screamed and cried when I handed her over, and I walked away in tears.
Wednesday evening we were taken to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant to experience food and entertainment, Ethiopian style. What fun! The dancing was incredible, and at times a The dancers did this shoulder dance where they popped their shoulders and necks in all kinds of crazy directions, almost like their joints were dislocated! The real kicker was when a dancer came off the stage, walked up to me, and tried to teach this white girl with no rhythm to do the shoulder dance.  I was most definitely the comic relief!  The food was amazing...injera, beef, vegetables, and spicy sauces. We learned how to tear the injera and use it to grab bits of all the flavors using only our right hand, as is the tradition here. We drank Coke out of glass bottles again and left feeling full and with cheeks hurting from laughing.


We awakened Thursday feeling not exactly rested. The busyness of the days here, combined with the incessant barking of dogs all over Addis during the night, were beginning to take their toll. Today we had a lot to pack in...Entoto mountain, shopping, and a visit to Kids Care orphanage, where Little Sister was first taken when she was relinquished.
We met our travel companions, who were quickly becoming friends, for breakfast. Rick, Margaret, and Rick's sister, Pattie, were here for Embassy and enjoying their first days with baby Lydia. Oh my word, what a doll she is! I was amazed how perfectly she seemed to bond with them from day 1. I would have never known she had not been with them since birth if I was not there when they brought her out of the TH. After breakfast, we piled into the van for the hour long drive to the top of Entoto mountain, which overlooks the city of Addis. We drove through startlingly poverty-stricken areas surrounded by lush beauty. Such an odd contrast. Ditches filled with murky water, trash, and human excrement just inches from playing children. Women hand-washing linens while chickens pecked away at the ground around their feet. Elderly men struggling to walk down the street, bent over a stick with a cushion of fabric scraps tied to the top with found pieces of twine.
As we gained altitude, the population thinned and the view widened. To our left was a hillside with goats clinging to rock. To our right was a panorama of God's creation...Ethiopia. Green, fertile mountains with the sprawling city of Addis tucked in between. We were above the noise, above the smog and exhaust, and the air was sweet and fresh. Dawit pulled the van over to the side so we could take pictures. We heard the clop clop clop of donkeys coming down the mountain with loads of firewood bound to their backs. Occasionally an old woman would come down with the same burden, bent over and weathered from years of hardship.
We got back into the van and drove to the very top, where the first church in Ethiopia still stands, as well as a beautiful old Orthodox church and museum. Our museum guide explained all the artifacts to us in his best broken English, so very proud of his heritage. As I listened to him speak, my mind drifted to our sweet girl back at the TH. How I want to retain all of this...every word. This her history. These are her people and her ancestors. I want her to know, to be proud of where the Lord chose for her to spend her first three years.
After we finished our tour of Entoto, we drove back down to Addis and stopped by the Kids Care Orphanage, where Little Sister spent 2 months before being taken to the AWAA Transition Home. It was eerily quiet when we arrived, and we were told the children were in class. Eyob stepped into the classroom and quickly motioned for us to enter. We timidly walked in and were greeted by a sea of brown faces and big, sparkling brown eyes who looked at us with unbridled curiosity and excitement. Eyob said something in Amharic and the children shouted in unision, “Hello, friends! It's nice to meet you!” Then a little girl stood with a stick and pointed to the torn alphabet chart hanging on the wall and the class mimicked her as she said “A..B...C...D...E...F-eh...G...” They were so proud to show off for us!
We ducked out of the classroom and walked across the couryard to the building where the babies and toddlers are taken care of. I walked into the baby room and nearly burst into tears. 6 babies lay on their backs. 3 were perfectly still and looked at me as if saying “Please pick me up.” One fussed quietly and the other two...tiny, scrawny, hungry newborns. One had dried milk around his mouth but sucked the air as if hoping for more. The other was so small and thin, I couldn't help but wonder how it had survived long enough to be brought to the orphanage. Oh how I longed to pick them up, but I knew if I did it would result in 6 screaming babies with only one nanny in the room. I had to respect her and the fact that she was doing her very best under the circumstances. I placed my hand on each of their foreheads, prayed for them, and walked out of the room in shock.
We went down the hall to what was apprently a toddler room. The door was halfway open and the room was full of little ones. Two ran up and jumped into waiting arms. I was the last one at the door, and noticed a little girl on the floor with obvious special needs. All of a sudden she used her hands to glide across the floor on her bottom and just like that she was at my feet with her arms raised, her head gently rocking back and forth and her eyes moving about out of her control. I picked her up and kissed her braided hair while tears filled my eyes. What hope is there for a child like this here? There is no physical therapy, no medical intervention available to an orphaned child who suffers from a syndrome like this. We asked if she was about three years old and Eyob said, “No, she is seven.”
She has lived in the orphanage for five years.
Oh God, look upon her sweet face and let her feel You.
I gazed into her unfocused eyes and told her she is beautiful and that Jesus loves her. I held her for a long time and just prayed that she could feel her worth. I passed her over to my husband and she immediately explored his face, fascinated with his whiskers. 
 She has a name. 
 She is a person. 
 She is fearfully and wonderfully made. 
 She is precious in His sight.
After Kids Care we went to lunch again. We ate at a restaurant called “Lucy Bar and Restaurant,” named after the famed skeleton that was found in Ethiopia which is the earliest known human remains. It was right next to the museum where she is housed. I ordered Doro Wat, as that is one dish I wanted to be sure to try while here. It was SO good. Spicy chicken, a whole egg, and red pepper sauce with a kick tempered by the sour injera...the drivers were delighted when I ordered it and even more so when I declared I liked it!
We drove back to the TH to spend more time with sweet girl, and I found her waiting quietly in an office. She looked up from her daze, recognized me, and ran to me again.
Oh my heart.
I carried her up front where Daddy was kicking a soccer ball with the boys and we sat down to let her eat the carmela I had hiding in my backpack. A little girl, around the age of 12, who obviously loves her sat with us. She held my hand, kissed my cheek, rubbed my arm, and just gazed at me in adoration. She loved to make Little Sister laugh, but didn't pick up on her clues when she had had “enough”. She would tease her in Amharic, saying that I was her mommy and stealing kisses, and Little Sister became very agitated. She would start hitting her and pulling her hair, and the girl would laugh. Hmmm, I think I see why these physical outbursts are so common with her...the kids egg her on and laugh when she does things that hurt. I finally picked her up and walked around with her, though I hated to turn my back on the girl, but LS was much calmer when I kept her up and I am here for her, and I need to take every opportunity to show her she is safe with me and build her trust. Later on, I was sitting quietly with her laying across my lap when a boy, about 12 years old, came up and spoke softly to her while caressing her head. He looked at me and said “She loves you.” My heart skipped a beat. I talked with him a while, learning that he was an orphan still waiting for a family. This child is precious, smart, and beautiful. He would be a blessing to anyone. I looked into his eyes and said “I believe God is going to give you a Mommy and Daddy. You will be happy. “ His eyes lit up and he said, “I believe in Jesus. I believe He died for my sins. I study hard, I pray in my bed, and I read the Bible. I am not worried. I trust God.”
If I could fit him in my suitcase I would. What a mighty young man of God! I said that when he comes to America I hope our families become friends so we can visit. He smiled and nodded. I have NO DOUBT he will be snatched up soon. I will be doing everything in my power to make sure he does.
Before leaving the TH, we spoke with the Pediatrician who said he had seen her creep up a bit on the growth chart, which was encouraging. He discussed possible concerns and issues with her growth and development but it was nothing we did not already know. We thanked him and kissed her goodbye before heading to the Boston Day Spa for a massage (Ahhhhhh....less than 10 US dollars for 30 minutes!) and then out to dinner at Castelli's Italian Restaurant which was our gift to our drivers for making the week so enjoyable and treating us so well. We enjoyed a glass of wine and lots of laughter before heading back to the Guest House for our last night in Africa. Wow, how time flies.


We awakened Friday morning, eager to go to court and make sweet girl officially our daughter. I had butterflies in my stomach, despite the assurance that court was “no big deal” and that we'd be in and out in 5 minutes, no problem. Duni called around 9:00 and said we should just hang around the Guest House until time for our appointment since it is only a 3 minute drive. So we passed time by packing for the flight home. At 11:00 we were told it was time, so we hopped into the van and whizzed over to the court house. We got to the door and a guard told Eyob that we could not go in because there was a meeting. Eyob turned his attention to a handwritten sign taped to the door which had apparently been posted late the night before. Courts closed for emergency meeting. No cases until Monday. The AWAA employee who handles the courts looked at us and said “Can you come back Monday?”
Um. No.
I had a Jerry Seinfeld flashback of the soup Nazi..."No soup for you!  Come back two weeks!"
I suppose I appeared calm but I looked at my husband with a feeling of panic welling up inside of me.  

My heart was racing. What does this mean?
Feeling defeated we went back to the Guest House. Duni contacted the judge and tried to get us in but there was no way. Because of the meeting all court employees had gone home. We would have to stay. My husband, though, could not take off work three more days just like that, so we asked if they would let me stay and him go home. The judge agreed. So, suddenly, our entire weekend changed. I would be spending three days alone in Africa. 
We whizzed around town again, having lunch at a Tex Mex restaurant (I am not kidding! I had a quesadilla with guacamole!) going to the airline office to change my ticket, to an ATM to get more cash, and to the Transition Home to spend another afternoon with Little Sister. Kids were everywhere, and once again the same little girl started teasing her...acting like she was going to take me away from her. LS was not playing that game...not for one minute. I again had to remove her from the situation because she became so agitated. I longed for alone time with her so I could focus on bonding and not be fending off other children who so desperately want the family they see she has been given. What a hard place to be. My husband spent more time playing soccer with the older boys and wept when we had to say goodbye. We went back to the Guest House so my husband could pack and leave for the airport. We called home and let everyone know what was happening. They were tearful when they realized I was not coming home in “one more sleep” as planned. As he hugged and kissed me goodbye I realized I was shaking and crying. He said “You are in a safe place, you know that right? Are you scared?” I said I knew I was safe, but so many emotions were raging. We both knew that our friends in the US who did not know what it was like here would think he was crazy for leaving me. I knew I was in good hands and that this extra time with my daughter could only be good for her, but I missed my babies at home terribly. Add to that the fact that the power went out as they prepared to leave, and you have a recipe for disaster!  The van arrived to take everyone to the airport and I stood at the door, numb, as they drove away. I was alone. In Ethiopia. Lord, you must have a lot more faith in me than I have in myself so here I am, in your hands. Gulp.
I ate dinner alone and called my sister-in-law via cell phone as the internet was down.  The generator had kicked on after the power outage but the entire guest house smelled like Diesel fumes and the internet was fried.  Gotta love that timing. She agreed to let everyone know and to post on Facebook for me so people could be praying. I went to bed feeling the beginnings of a head cold coming on. 


I slept like crap. Dogs barked all night long. I tried wearing ear plugs but my head cold, which had firmly entrenched itself, made the plugs extremely uncomfortable. I popped another cold medicine tablet and drank pineapple juice at breakfast, hoping the vitamin C would help. After breakfast I went back to my room and lay down. Apparently the dogs don't bark in the daytime so I was able to steal another 2 hours of sleep. I'll take it.
Around 12:30 Eyob called and offered to take me to lunch. I agreed and we met Dawit at the Zebra Grill where I had chicken kabobs and french fries. I seriously love the fries. And Coke. Talk about comfort food! We went to the Transition Home and I spent two wonderful, peaceful hours with LS. It was just what I had hoped for. She cuddled and kissed and laughed while eating the last package of fruit snacks in my backpack. I got out my camera and showed her how to press the button to scroll through all of the photos I have taken and she spent the good part of an hour doing just that...naming the people she recognized and smiling at “Daddy” when she saw him. It was priceless.
I was driven back to the Guest House and I was thrilled to find out the internet was finally working again. Hallelujah! I called my sweeties at home, talked to my mom, and even spoke with my hubby who was waiting for his last flight home. A knock at my door startled me, and I opened to find the lady from the front desk telling me Eyob had called and told her I need a new room so the dogs would not keep me awake. I was surprised, and agreed to move to the bedroom adjoining the living area we had been using. The window faced a different direction but I honestly wondered if it would make a difference. I figured it was worth a shot. So I shuffled all my things to the new room and then I ate dinner downstairs again...alone. This time I brought a book to read while eating, so that helped a little. It sure would have been nice if more families had been coming in for court this weekend, but unfortunately there were no more until the next week. Oh well. I went back to my room and piddled on Facebook for a while and watched a couple of really bad, no-name American movies before popping another cold medicine pill and going to bed. Cough...cough...cough. 


Wow. Sleep. I have missed you old friend! 10 hours of sleep definitely recharged this travel-weary body and, though the head cold still persisted, it seemed to be not quite as intense. Thank you, Lord. I ate now the chef didn't even ask if I wanted scrambled egg but just delivered it with a smile to the table...and chatted with Lorena and Steven who are here from California for 6 months. I went back up and got dressed, looking forward to going to church with T and experiencing worship in a new country! Yonas arrived with a driver who I did not know to take me to church. It was in an area of town that I had not yet seen, so the 30 minute drive was nice. I actually saw a traffic light for the first time since my arrival! T spotted me as I wandered around the crowd waiting for time for the service to begin and greeted me with a hug. He showed me around the grounds and we even ran into Duni. We went into the sanctuary and sat on the front row. I did not know what to expect so imagine my surprise when three white Americans got up to lead worship backed by a band and choir made up of Ethiopians, Ugandans, Kenyans, Koreans, Australian, and Chinese members! The name of the church is the International Evangelical Church and, true to its name, it is a little slice of Heaven. With services in English, French, Chinese, and Korean languages as well as Sunday School in English and Amharic it was a level of diversity like I have never seen. The service was very American in style...I recognized all of the songs (most from Hillsong) but the difference was in the volume. These people sing, and they sing LOUD. At the end of a song, when most congregants applauded, the back of the room erupted with women trilling their tongues. What an amazing experience! I thought the congregation was going to sing the roof right off of the building! How God must love that enthusiasm...
After church we went to lunch and I had Margherita Pizza with hot lemon tea. Good stuff. Then we went to the Transition Home to spend the afternoon with miss priss. She arrived with a smile and I smooched her cheeks, noting the sheet marks on her face. They had apparently awakened her from her nap to see me. I could tell she was groggy so I sat her down to get today's treasure out of my back pack. I had run out of fruit snacks, (because, if you remember, I was supposed to be HOME by now!) so I had stuck a package of pop tart treats thinking they would be good. Nope. She was sorely disappointed in what I had to offer. The kid wanted sugar...and would not even taste the treats because they looked like crackers. Darn. She whined a bit and explored my backpack, trying to find a piece of candy to no avail. Finally she gave up. We went down to the gravel parking area where Yonas was kicking a soccer ball with the three older boys who had stolen my hubby's heart this week. They greeted me with hugs and kisses and bright faces. Little Sister spotted a toy on the ground...a little half-ball that your flip inside-out and lay it down til it pops up. She had fun with it and then one of the boys tried to show her how she could make it pop in her hand. She was not about to give him the chance. I have noticed the girl is possessive of her stuff, and she got upset when he gently took the ball out of her hand in an attempt to show her the new trick.
Let the meltdown begin.
I tried giving her my camera to play with.
Scream, scream, whine.
I tried rocking her and soothing her.
Scream, scream, whine.
I tried putting her down.
Scream, hit, claw.
I turned her around so she could not hurt me or herself.
Freak out to the Nth degree.
On and on it went. The language barrier was painfully apparent and I braced myself for what I could see may be a rough first few weeks at home. I mustered all the patience I had for this tiny girl who is so wounded and afraid and Yonas called her nanny to come and see if she could calm her down. I was glad to see the Nanny, but LS did not want her which actually made me feel better. The Nanny took her and walked into the building to try to get her to talk and she came out saying “She wants the camera.”
But I tried to give her the camera!
So I tried again. But STUPID MOM unzipped the case for her. What was I thinking?? LS went into fits again. So the Nanny, Yonas, and I just stood there waiting for her to give it up. Yonas then gave me a piece of information that will be useful in the coming weeks and months...
“In our culture, when a child wants something we give it to them. We spoil our children.”
I nodded and said, “Oh, and in America if they whine we tell them no. That's ok, she will learn.”
“Yes,” he said, “She will learn.”
The crying and whining went on for over an hour. I did NOT want to leave with her upset for fear that she would think her behavior had driven me away. Thankfully, she gradually calmed down and began interacting with the nannies who offered different, tissues, songs. Before long she was giving me kisses again and playing Peek-a-boo while giggling uncontrollably. Thank God. The nanny heard me saying “I love you” in Amharic and she looked at me and asked “Do you love her?”
“Yes,” I answered, “very much.” She smiled and said something to LS which caused her to give me a big kiss on the cheek. Then it was time for us to leave, so I promised I would bring her something special tomorrow and she walked through the gate, smiling and waving at me.
Tomorrow she gets the bear we made for her early in the summer...the big purple bear which plays the recording of her brothers and sisters saying “We love you!” and which, I hope, will help her remember that we will not leave her an orphan...we will come for her.