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,