Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Great Adventure

Hi! Today is the day the Lord has made and I am going to get our daughter. We will be gone for almost 12 days including travel. Please be praying for us all on this journey. Me and Laura as we travel and pick up sweet M. Our dear families who are holding down the fort and doing double duty. Our children who will miss their mommas. Us as we miss our babies. Our husbands as they juggle it all. Solomon as he drives us around and is the translates for us with Merhawit. And Sweet Merhawit who will have one more shock of her life as it changes right before her eyes.

Thank you for your support, you love, your tangible gifts and service to our family. We love you so much.

I will try to update when I'm there, but who knows if that will really happen.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Coming Soon to a Home Near You (maybe) . . . SWEET M

Yes, it's here, it's happening, it's official! Sweet Merhawit is coming home. She is really coming home! This real live little girl is coming to her new home in Tyler, Texas, USA!
My very close friend and I are leaving September 18th to fly to Dubai and then onto Addis Ababa. September 25th we will stand before the US Embassy person and do the final bit of paper work and then September 28th we will leave the lovely country of Ethiopia (which I am already sad about) and arrive back in Tyler on the 29th.
So many emotions! I promise to be honest in it all.
My first real emotion is fear!!! I think it SHOULD be excitement, but really and truly I'm scared. Scared for us all. I do not know how this will change our little family. I do not know what it looks like to take my new four year old from all she knows and loves. I don't know if she is going to scream the entire time or cry or hate me for doing this to her. I am scared when I bring her home she will be very unhappy to be here and that she will throw fit after fit and I will break down and wonder if we got it all wrong. I am scared we will stand in this empty house with all of my people at school and just look at each other and look at each other and not know how to say a word that either understands. I am scared that, really, I don't have what it takes.

And I am sad for her because she IS leaving everything and I don't know what she understands and I can only just barely imagine what it must be like to leave your friends and your mommy and your country and get on a big loud thing that flies in the sky only to land in a land where you don't know anyone and no one speaks your language. And then be expected to call somebody else mommy. It must be terrifying, confusing, and lonely.

Excitement is there . . . peaking out when I let the fear go. I imagine holding her (if she lets me) and giving her a safe place to grieve and sort it all out. I imagine looking deep into her eyes and telling her (when she can understand me) how much she is loved and that I don't understand how hard it is to leave it all, but that we will walk this road together and in the end it will all be okay. I will tell her how I love her homeland and want to take her back one day so she can know it again. I will tell her how brave her Ethiopian mommy is and how much she loves her.
I'm excited about doing all of these girly things I never have done with my wormy boys. Getting pedicures and manicures, dressing up and going to a tea room somewhere lovely and frilly; walking straight into the girl department instead of by it; playing dolls and dress up. And I am trying to think of other girly things, but I can't because in reality I was a tomboy and liked to climb trees and ride skateboards and do all the things the boys did. So, I imagine that we will do boy things too! (which really makes me more excited than the girly things, if I'm honest)
I'm excited about her first bike ride and ice cream cone, walks in the neighborhood and watching Dora (don't tell my boys I said that).
I am really excited most about watching Greg's heart melt and pour out on this little girl. It will be a beautiful thing.

My other big emotion is thankfulness. I am so thankful and truly amazed that my friend would take time out of her very busy life and give it to me, for me and for Merhawit. There are no words for this sacrifice. I suppose it is called friendship. And for that I am very thankful.
I am also so thankful that our very favorite person (besides M) in Ethiopia will be driving us again. He will be such a comfort to Merhawit . . . and me and Greg. And I CANNOT wait to see his face at the airport!
I am thankful that God has proven over and over his faithfulness from the very beginning of this journey. I know down deep he didn't just call us to this to leave us. I know down deep that he will complete the work he started. I know down deep that he has a good plan for us all. It might not be easy, but he never ever said it would. He did promise he wouldn't leave or forsake us. It is a crazy adventure. And if I sit back and let it be just that, then I am really excited! I mean in reality, I only have 30 or so years left on this earth so why not just go for broke and enjoy the ride.

And see . . . now I can't wait to get her home!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The City Dump

Then (the hardest day for me) the dump. . . Korah. Soli took us to the Addis city dump where 100,000 people live in houses made out of plastic and trash. The "dump place" (as Soli called it) reeked of refuse and rot and chemical smoke and sewage, so powerful was the smell my eyes watered and my nose burned. The people who live there dig through the heaps and heaps of trash for food to eat and anything to sell. Children sit close by (or are strapped to their momma’s back) as their parents sort through rotten meat and bits of who knows what. Older children play together by the dump. They are filthy dirty. I have never in my 48 years seen or smelled anything like it. It was heartbreaking, surreal and completely overwhelming.
Aidan said later that day, “I thought God had a plan for everyone.” That was tough. The whole experience was tough. The reality of how people live, I mean really live in ways that I cannot explain to my children is tough. I realize that there is a place in my heart that really doesn’t want to know the harshness of that reality. It is not a pretty place (my heart). I think of Jesus and how he would respond to these people and how he probably would have hugged them and held the children. I, on the other hand, could not wait to get to my hand sanitizer and change clothes because I smelled the dump smell long after we left. I realized that it is a lot easier to talk about helping the poor and needy than really doing it. I mean I can help the poor and needy: I can adopt a little girl, I can do Meals on Wheels (at least I used to), I can sponsor a child (which I don't do anymore) . . . but this was different.
I met a family another day who go to Korah everyday to be ‘happy helpers.’ Everyday. The day before the mom carried a leper from Korah (on a pallet) to the leper hospital and watched as the doctors cleaned his wounds. And a few days later this same 90+ year old man accepted Jesus as his Savior. 
I have two friends who sell Ethiopian art and jewelry to help feed the people of Korah. They have such sweet hearts for this place.
I am so thankful for what I saw and experienced and I am even more thankful there are people who give their lives and hearts for the people of this place.
Luke 6:20-21, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”
And now I am convicted because I realized just now that I wrote “I am even more thankful there are people who give their lives and hearts for the people of this place.”
Dang it. Dang it. Dang it. God also says in Proverbs and really all over the place, “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” And in John, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and truth.”
Honestly, I don’t think I wanted to be changed or challenged by what I saw. But here we go. I don’t know where this will lead or what God is doing in my heart (I just hope he doesn’t tell us to move to Korah). But I do truly hope and pray that he will do something, soften my heart to the cries of the poor. I know they are not just in Africa or other parts of the world. They are right around the corner in my own city.
James 2:5, "Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love Him?"
I don’t understand it, but God is providing for these people. It is not a provision that I can comprehend, at least on a physical level. I pray that these people will know Jesus and that this is just a temporary home. There are streets of gold and feasts of plenty for them when they leave this place. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reflecting on our Court Trip

We have been home from Ethiopia for four sleepy days. I still have to pinch myself to believe I have a four year old daughter. Is this my life, or am I dreaming?
I have been dreaming at night of Ethiopia. The sounds and smells and Merhawit and Soli. It has crept into my soul, this place and her people.
It is hard to describe the assault on the senses. There are people everywhere in Addis. I mean everywhere. A sweet burning scent hangs in the air, as does the harsh smell of sewage. And it is not quiet . . . honking, constant honking. 5.5 Million people live in this city. The roads are shared with goats, cows and donkeys.  Poverty is every. where. you. look. The whole city feels like a shanty town. And in comparison to where I live, it is. But, here is the deal . . . the beautiful people of Ethiopia have different priorities, it seems. People mean more than things, relationships more than being on time for appointments, deep caring more than looking professional, and pleasing someone means more than making sure you are paid the exact amount for the time you put in. I saw it all in action. And to be honest it was . . . humbling.

There are so many pictures, so many stories
Our amazing driver (now friend) Solomon (the one who cleaned up my kids throw up) showed us nothing but pure love. His words stick in my head, "As you like" "We are family, no need for thank you" When Aidan was sick he deeply cared for him, driving us from pharmacy to pharmacy to find the right medication. He told Aidan to sit by him when I wanted him to sit by the window in case he needed to throw up. Soli said he would just catch his throw up and toss it out the window because he wanted to sit by him and comfort him. He called our room late that night to check on him. He told us to call him in the night if we needed him and he would be right there.
Solomon translated for Merhawit's birth mom, Soli held our little girl and told her in her language (that no one else knew) that we would be back for her. Soli was our advocate. He made our trip. I know the Lord provided Solomon. And what sweet provision. He made us laugh. I will never hear Johnny Cash again without thinking of Soli. Eight straight days. It was my husbands dream come true.

On our last night in Addis, Solomon took us all to the outskirts of Addis and we sat in his car from 9:00pm-11:00pm waiting and watching for Hyenas. Who does that?? I know for a fact that wasn't part of what we paid for, but that wasn't why he did it. He did it because he cares for us and he wanted more than anything for my kids to see Hyenas. Ahhh, the sweet heart of sacrifice . . . I know he would say wasn't a sacrifice at all. "For me, I swear, it is no problem." And when we said goodbye at the airport there were tears in his eyes. (And ours as well)
Soli and Josiah

The receptionist at the hotel called the night Aidan was sick, too. Just to check on him. I waited for her to say something about our room, or a bill we owed or anything, but nothing came . . . just concern for our son.

When the housekeeper saw that one of my children was sleeping on the couch, she immediately ordered an extra bed to our room at no extra charge. When I objected she said, "This couch is not comfortable for your baby to sleep on." That settled it.

Greg gave one of the housekeepers the equivalent of $5 and she literally bowed to him in gratitude.

The waiters in the hotel restaurant, the housekeeper, the doormen were all sad for us to leave. It was like they were saying goodbye to family. Hugs, blowing kisses, genuine sadness.  

It was all so odd, in such a beautiful way. I know their culture is different than ours. And I know we have it good here in America. But I can't help feeling that something is missing here and something is found there . . . and money can't by it, and things don't provide it. It is way deeper than that. I think Soli said it best when the beggars came to the window, "God will provide for you."  Do we have to know that here in America? I wonder if these sweet people have to know that and believe it? And is this why they can so freely give of themselves? 

I don't know the answer.

The view from the back of our hotel

Greg gave snacks to the kids who lived around our hotel. 

As often as they could Josiah and Aidan would go to the back of  the hotel and play soccer. 

The view from a window in our hotel

More reflections coming.

Friday, June 29, 2012


Our daughter (forever and always) . . .


Merhawit is officially our daughter! 

Just wanted to let you (who have been praying and hoping and wishing) know the news!

We can't bring her home for awhile, but we know she will one day sit at our table and play in our yard and walk in our neighborhood with us. 

Thank you for encouraging us!

One more picture :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hello from Ethiopia!
Wow! I will try to catch you up on our travels. For those who don't know, on our way to Dallas my beautiful '93 Suburban broke down on 635, right before 75. Thank God that when the fuel pump broke we were by an exit and coasted off the road. We coasted to an Exxon station that had a mechanic. We left our car there and my friend's sister was able to come get us and our 7 bags and take us to the airport hote. God was so evident.
We flew to Washington DC the next day and spent the afternoon wandering around DC. As wonderful and romantic as it sounds, it was pretty hard to get into town and to see a whole lot in a short time. It probably ruined my kids from ever wanting to go back and sightseeing. Oh well.
The next day we boarded Ethiopian Airlines for a very long flight. Not much sleep!
We met Sweet M yesterday for the first time and it was pretty amazing. She is so cute and has a sweet smile. She was shy and maybe a little sad and confused. Her birthmother is staying at the Care Center and she has been spending time with her.
Today we met with the birthmother. It was extremely emotional for me. Knowing what she is doing for her daughter (and I know that it is for her daughter) it very humbling. She was there the whole time today and we took lots of pictures. Greg and I kind of kept a little distance just out of respect for her. And that was okay, we know that there will be plenty of time to get to know our daughter.
It is surreal that this is all happening right now. We go to court tomorrow and hopefully will pass. If not tomorrow, we know it will happen.
The kids, Greg and our driver Solomon have been having the best time at the Care Center. I think my kids want to live there and play ball all the time. The children at the center are delightful. Beautiful and full of love. It is a privilege to meet them and get to know them a little and to know that the majority have families.
We love our driver, Solomon! Yesterday within a few minutes of meeting him both of my kids threw up. Solomon insisted on cleaning it up.
Today he took us to the meat market. He loves raw meat! Aidan ate some and wanted to keep eating it. I, on the other hand, was trying not to throw up. He did order us non-adventurous kind wonderful beef tips and injera.
This is a very choppy blog, kinda without feeling. I think everything is a bit overwhelming and I am trying to process it. It is really too much to feel at one time. The poverty, meeting Sweet M and her birthmother, and the time difference. One thing I can tell you with deep feeling is that the people of Ethiopia are deeply sincere and kind . . . wanting to do for you at every turn. Lovely and humbling.
Okay, need to go. Will update again. We are thankful and happy.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Control Freak

I am a control freak, I might just be a freak that likes to control EVERYTHING! And as I type those words tears come to my eyes because I have felt the disarray being this controlling has on my body, mind, spirit and family. And, it's not the kind of control that cares about what you wear or eat (I should be one of those), it's the kind that likes to control circumstances and events so that it all works out in my favor, for my purposes. It is the kind of control that puts my palm toward the Lord and says, "Hey, um, I got this . . . let me figure this one out. That way I will know what is coming down the pike. No surprises." It is ugly and lacking in faith. And when the faith is wavering so is the peace.
We are this close (can't you see my fingers?), this close to getting Sweet M. Today we were supposed to find out that her mom has definitely decided to go forward with her decision to relinquish Sweet M. She was to appear before a judge and let him know, and then we would know that this girl we have grown to love would become ours after our court date next week. But, yesterday we got a message saying the courts would be closed today (Friday) and her court appointment is rescheduled for Monday. Monday is the day we fly to Washington on the first leg of our trip to ET. Once we are on that plane to Washington, there is no plane ticket refund. Once we are on that plane we hoped to be just over the moon to be traveling together as a family to meet Sweet M. And anticipating doing a little afternoon sightseeing in Washington. I wanted to get a great night sleep on Sunday, so that I would be rested on Monday for that fun day. I wanted to be relieved and happy and carefree. Do you see how very ugly this is?? I mean how self centered and controlling. And it is ugly and not only because it is full of selfish controlling, but because it is full of fear. I cannot let go because I am scared to death of what might happen. Pretty funny since in reality I don't control it anyway. I am flat out afraid that the birth mom is going to change her mind, afraid that we are not going to meet our Sweet M (who is really not ours),  not going to bring her home to love her. I am afraid that we have thrown our hearts out there ready to love love love and we are going to be the one in however many that all the bad happens to.
Really, what I am doing is choosing not to believe. It boils down to belief. Is God's heart for me good or not? I know enough about enough to know not everything works out all of the time. You know, this throwing  my heart back out there has reignited this something inside of me that grew before in the form of another sweet girl inside of my tummy. The hopes, the excitement for a daughter. The love of a little girl. I carried her for 29 weeks before she was born and died. She had Trisomy 18. So, there is a fear that Sweet M's story will stop short of my arms. And it might. And this is where I either believe or I don't believe. It is that simple. Is God in control? Is he GOOD? Does he love me even if I never have a daughter? Does he love me? PERIOD? I mean the right answer is YES!!! The way it plays out in my daily life is "Heck no, we have been down this road before . . . I will take it from here, thank you very much."
I am realizing this for what it is right now. It is lack of belief. I can focus on all of the things that could go wrong, I can remember the pain of what has gone on wrong, or I can remember who God is and what he says and how he shows himself to me in such kind ways. I am telling you he is long suffering, this God. So, if you are still reading I am going to remember the ways God has worked and blessed. Knowing full well this portion of our journey could end in heartache and grief. But I do believe it is not the end of the story. Most of you have met my bubbly, kind-hearted 8 year old, Josiah, who was part of the story surrounding Gracie's birth and death.
Since God told us to adopt a little girl we have seen his mercies:
He made it very clear that we were to adopt.
He put people around us who have adopted other Ethiopian children. (Isn't that kinda crazy in Tyler, Texas to have so many families who have kids from ET?)
He placed on several of my friends hearts (some of whom I hardly knew) to host a dinner for us that raised a large part of our agency fees.
He used one of my best friend's business to bless our family with a chunk of change towards our adoption.
We have an envelope of beautiful notes for Sweet M that hopefully she will read one day and know how much she was prayed for and loved way before she stepped foot on American soil.
We have friends who have walked closely, prayed fervently and spoken boldly (and challenged us) into our lives regarding this adoption.
We have friends who travel to Ethiopia and the timing worked out PERFECTLY that they were able to go visit Sweet M TWO times in May. She was held, loved, and literally prayed over. She was told that she has a family who loves her, that she has a gentle father and two fun brothers and a mom who can't wait to hold her. She was given hope. (That gift was such kindness from God)
We were given very expensive shots for free from a friend who loves us and has a heart for orphans.
We have bags, medicine, Birr, pillows, shoes, more bags, a video camera (and more) that we wouldn't have if it wasn't for the kindness of friends' generosity.
We have dear friends who have prayed over us for this trip and I know they will till the end and then they will keep praying. 
We have about 100 pictures of Sweet M. (I hope I get to post them soon and tell you her real name. She is so beautiful, with a smile that will make you smile)
These (and there are more) are evidences that God is good, that he is in control, that he follows through, that he has a plan and that his ways are so much bigger and better than my measly control freak habits. Even if this all falls through and Sweet M goes back to her momma . . .is there a better place for her to be??? God will still have a plan for us. He still loves us and will care for us. He is good. I have seen it. I don't always never get it, but I can't deny that he is SOVEREIGN.
It doesn't mean I don't feel anxiety anymore, but it means that instead of freaking out (at least for the moment) I am going to remember what he says and not what I feel.
"I believe, help my unbelief"