Playing with Food

This year since all of my regular Christmas decorations are adorning our new storefront, I decided to do “homemade” decorations to go with our family ornaments. When I had asked Dani what they had done to decorate for Christmas at the orphanage, he mentioned that they had made paper chains. 

Perfect. That’s what we will do too! It was a win-win since we wanted to do a more low key Christmas for our kiddo anyways, who will be experiencing Christmas for the first real time in his life. We didn’t want to overwhelm our minimalist kid who does not like excess or extras of anything. Keepin’ simple. Or so I thought.

My tree was lacking some of it’s usual pizazz so I decided we would also string up some popcorn and cranberries and hang them on the tree while watching a Christmas movie.

That’s when Daniel made this simple observation that hit me like a ton of bricks.

“American’s play with food. They crazy. Ethiopia, we eat food”

Silence.  I had no words. What do you say to that. I wanted to hang my head in shame. Here I was trying to help him feel more comfortable with our “low-key homemade” Christmas and yet I was still playing in excess as we quite literally “played with our food”.

It’s been humbling raising a kid who has come from nothing. And I don’t mean “come from nothing” in the American sense, the way we often toss that phrase around. I mean literally, nothing. No family, no home, no belongings of his own. His values and perspective on many things has cut me to the core, leaving me with this conundrum of how to preserve this precious and dare I say ‘holy’ perspective on what is truly important, what is truly a need versus a want. 

I don’t have answers. I am just incredibly thankful that God has set the tone for holidays and gift-giving in our family with this special 13 year old as our first. I LOVE giving gifts, it is truly one of my love languages, and I have made it a priority to give meaningful gifts that matter over the years (just ask my siblings about all the “goats and sheep” that were gifted in their name over the years) ;)  But it is truly a challenge in our culture to weed through all the feeds and pop-ups and tweets and ads to not be tempted to need or want more. 

So now, when I’m scrolling or I’m walking through Target and that little voice tells me I NEED THAT BECAUSE IT’S ON SALE, I hear my sweet boy’s voice a little louder saying, “Americans play with food. They crazy” and I remember there is a world much bigger then me with much bigger needs and it puts it all into a little bit better perspective. 

Different Continent... Same Struggle

The last 12 days have been full of emotion. We had the 28 hour flight here. The anticipation and emotion of meeting Daniel the first time, and the subsequent visits of getting to know our kind hearted, quiet and shy son. I’ve spent a good two days in anguish, over all of the children we met and are leaving behind. (You can confirm with Meek, but I don’t think anguish is too strong of a word). ;) The Lord graciously met me there in what was building to be anxiety and guilt over not doing enough and reminded me that this is the path that he has set before us, and my job is to simply walk in it. The beginning of this journey felt very much like God chose this part of our story. And after we had gone to court and adopted Daniel, I felt this overwhelming urge to plan out the next chapters of our story. That night we watched a documentary about the guesthouse we are staying at called Ordinary Hero.  Their motto and inspiration is simply, “change the world for one”.  As we listened for 45 minutes of how the impact in the life of one child can make an extraordinary difference, I squirmed uncomfortably because this was exactly the opposite of what I was feeling. What we were doing for one was simply not enough. 

I became frantically obsessed with making the decision of trying to pursue more international adoptions, specifically for the kids we’ve met, asking about their paperwork, and asking about the possibility of bringing them home as well. I felt the urgency of the need as I looked into the dim future of these precious kids. I also felt torn as I considered the overwhelming need of the kids in Foster Care at home and how that had always been heavy on our heart and our tentative next steps once we adopted Daniel. 

Once again, God met me there, this time through another adoptive mom staying at our guest house. She mentioned that in her experience, the right child always seems to cross your path when it’s time. The Lord used this to remind me that just as He chose Daniel and this path for us, He will continue to be in control and writing the next part of our story. Over the next few days we begin to deliberate about whether or not to stay and wait for paperwork or go home for now and come back when the paperwork is finished, trying to weigh the options and make the best possible decision. While this is necessary for two people sitting with a one-way ticket, limited funds, and an indefinite timeline to discuss, looking back I see how my heart was squirming in the uncertain phase of our trip here. Once again the battle for control had snuck into my heart. I wanted a plan. I wanted to make a logical decision. I wanted to feel in control. So we weighed our options and made a tentative plan, if this, then this, if that, then that.. and I felt a little better. 

And then I spent the last two days in bed with myriad symptoms that seemed to change every few hours, and very few options for treatment outside of an African hospital or health clinic. It could’ve been the altitude, dehydration, low blood sugar, some anxiety, a bacteria…or a unfortunate combination of them all. This was a part of the equation that I had not foreseen and could not control, despite my best efforts and the frequent application of many essential oils. Once again, I was abruptly and graciously reminded that I am not in control. As I lay here the vivid image and voice of my high school Bible teacher came flooding into my mind. He was enthusiastically teaching us about Ephesians 2, where Paul says, “God has already prepared the good works for you to do, now you just need to walk in them.” And I was reminded of this truth rooted deep in my heart when I was about Daniel’s age. And so, as I lay here, incapacitated, dictating this blog post to my husband, I am comforted once again by the truth that I am not in control, that God is, and that my job is simply to walk in the good things that He has already prepared in advance for us to do.

And just as the doubt begins to creep into my mind again, that this is not enough I am reminded of the impact one life can have on another. Specifically the investment one can have on an impressionable teenager. Just like the kind my Bible teacher had on me. I’ve long understood the concept of discipleship and duplication, but today it hits me in a new way. As I stare as these precious faces, who long for a family of their own, I am forced to rely on His truth in a new way. I have no idea why God has chosen Daniel, or us, or this crazy long journey, but I have no doubt that if we follow what God has called us to do, then it is enough. Because I’m not in charge, and I never have been. I think Paul sums it up the best:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And his not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so the no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”.  Ephesians 2:4-10

It's a BOY!!!

Woo hoo!!! In the most anti-climactic court visit ever, we officially adopted our son DANIEL!!

We got up early this morning and got our first Ethiopian massage, bouncing around on back roads trying to avoid traffic. We still got stuck in a massive traffic jam and a 20 minute drive took an hour and a half. Luckily our guide is amazing and planned for this so we got to court right on time. 

At court we waited maybe 15-20 minutes for the judge to invite us in. Daniel was not at court with us, just me, Brittany, our lawyer from Bethany, and our guide, Menge. When the judge called us in, he asked us 6 or 7 seven questions like, Do you have children? Have you learned about Ethiopian culture? Have you received training in international adoption? Have you met your child? Do you love him? Then the judge signed a couple papers, said ok it’s official, and we left.

Bonkers!! 3 years to get to this point of legally adopting Daniel and it’s done in 5 minutes! It was a neat experience and we’re so grateful to have a step of this journey go smoothly and according to plan. 

So we’re officially parents!! Our son is is 58” tall, 84 pounds and is 15 years old!! He’s got big beautiful brown eyes and and incredible smile.

This ends the known part of journey to Ethiopia and now we dive back into the unknown we have lived in the past three years. But we are so hopeful!! Here’s where things stand. Now that we have passed court, we will get a court decree. Hopefully today, maybe tomorrow, definitely by Thursday. With that court decree two process will start simultaneously. 1st Daniel and our attorney go to one government office, called the Kabela (not sure if that’s spelled right). We need that office, to have electricity, internet, no meetings, and at least one person that feels like doing his job that day. If all those stars align then we will get an adoption certificate, which serves as Daniel’s new birth certificate. Our Bethany team will also take the court decree to federal MOWCA to have our “To Whom” letter signed. This is the agency that has been suspended and we’ve heard hopeful news, but until we have that letter in our hands, we don’t know if/when we’ll get it. With the To Whom letter and adoption certificate we can get Daniel’s Ethiopian passport, then his US Visa, and we’re ready to come home!!

So we wait. The above is a very specific prayer request. You can also be praying for Daniel as he’s about to have a huge transition in his life. He’s so quiet and tends to internalize his feelings, so we’re praying that as he develops comfort with us we can encourage him to express more of what he’s thinking and feeling about this massive transition. The kids create their own expectations of what life in America may be like, and as we know, reality rarely meets our expectations. So as one leg of this journey is finally coming to an end, the real work begins of loving this boy, letting him know how precious he is, and teaching him how to receive that love, teaching him that now it’s our job to take care of him, helping him let his guard down that he’s used to survive the past 15 years, and helping him adjust to having a family. 

We just want to reiterate that on the great days like today, and on all of the hard days we’ve had along this journey, God is good. God is the same, and His love for us has been so evident. We are so humbled and grateful for this journey that God has put us on, and eager to continue where he leads us. We have developed an even greater awareness of the need of families for children, locally and globally and are already thinking about what might be our next steps in changing the world for one child, and encouraging others to change the world for just one child.

Thank you for your prayers, thank you to those of you who have written letters to the Ethiopian Ambassador, and thank you for following along on our story. We’ll keep you updated as things progress.

God Bless, Meek and Brittany

3 Days in Africa

Day 1: Thursday May 25

After 28 hours of slightly traumatic travel (three words: curry, naked men wearing towels and B.O.) we woke up Thursday morning, tired but excited because we were getting to meet little man.  Breakfast was at 7:30 which we desperately wanted to skip but knew we needed to eat. We hadn’t gotten a ton of sleep because as soon as we got to bed the call to prayer started… at 2 AM! It lasted ALL NIGHT. We learned that there is an Orthodox Church and a Mosque nearby and they “take turns” with their call to prayer/very loud sermons. Anyways, after breakfast we took a short nap and woke up with an hour before we left.  For those of you who don’t know, I have a history of passing out at inopportune times… such as prior to getting on a flight or as my sister said “I do”. Well, as I got up to get ready I passed out… I’ll spare you the details but it was not pretty. Let’s just say my husband is a selfless and very loving man. Clearly we’ve established that it’s not an important family moment unless I pass out. (Side note, I am fine… just an unfortunate combo of sleep deprivation, dehydration, and as my husband likes to say, “emotional stress”)  ;)

Now for the part everyone wants to know about: meeting Little Man. 

To be honest, I had a hard time putting words to this for the last two days because after 3 years I have dreamed about that moment SO. MANY. TIMES.  I envisioned a tearful embrace, with this indescribable relief mingled with joy to actually be meeting our son.  

In truthful reality, it was kind of awkward, which feels terrible to acknowledge, but it’s the truth. It was overwhelming for me and I think for Little Man. And while the culture is known for being affectionate, Little Man seemed to feel uncomfortable with hugging us. He put out his hand at first to Meek, who shook his hand and then embraced him in a hug. He put out his hand to me next, and I started for the handshake and then awkwardly went in for a hug. He hugged me back and then pulled away. Looking back, this was so surprising and hard for my momma’s heart. Because he is so shy and there is such a language barrier, conversation was difficult during those first few minutes. But he did say something in those first few minutes that will stick with us forever. He said, “Now, I believe”.

I remember being acutely aware of my body language, wanting to cross my arms but forcing them down, finding my hands make their way to my pockets and forcing them out.  Our social workers told us later that Little Man rarely makes eye contact, and this was especially true in our first meeting which made it challenging to “read” him. Someone suggested he show us around, and I was thankful for the chance to do something together, taking the pressure off conversation. He showed us his room which is much smaller in real life then it looked in the photos. His bed looked tiny to me and I imagined his “giant” full size twin bed waiting for him at home with new bedding. The worn green blanket adorning his bed was neatly tucked in on all sides. His social worker suggested he pull out the photo book, which he kept under his mattress with a handful of his other possessions. Again, I pictured his room, twice the size of this room where 6 boys slept, with two dressers for all of his clothes and toys- both of which he did not have here. He had two sets of uniforms for school and one pair of “play clothes”. His shoes were fake crocs with a hole in the toe. 

We sat on the couch and showed him pictures, asking him questions. At one point, Meek told him that he too was adopted. This seemed to impact him and he began to ask questions about Meek’s adoption through the social worker. He seemed really curious about Meek’s birth mother. Meek explained that he didn’t know his birth mother as he was adopted at 3 days old. I thought that this might make Little Man feel as though he couldn’t connect, because he had known his birth mother and she had died. However, the exact opposite happened. He told his social worker that they had the same story. We later learned that D does not remember his birth mother, as he was so young when she died. This seemed to be a meaningful point of connection for Meek and D. D then asked about me and my family. He began to engage with us a little more, though he remained quiet and shy, laughing only when our guide Menge would make a joke in amharic. Watching him laugh was my favorite, as it felt like a glimpse into his soul… like we were getting a glimpse of the D behind the guarded shy walls I could not seem to see past. We went outside and played soccer and he seemed to enjoy that. We switched to basketball just as a 3 year old ran out to join us. He kept chasing the ball and hijacking our “game”.  I watched D to see how he was going to respond, and to my surprise, at one point when he had the ball, he reached down and gave it to the child. My heart melted as I watched D smile with pride watching this little guy try to shoot the ball. It was selfless and sweet and I remember feeling thankful as D will hopefully be a big brother to lots of little ones. It seemed God has equipped him well for that role. As we started to leave, we took our first family photo. They took a few and D gave his traditional camera smile… a slight grin. They told him to smile in amharic and made him laugh, and the next thing we know he is grinning ear to ear. He told the social worker in amharic, “ I am so happy” as we left. 

As we left, the social workers asked us how we thought the visit went. I said good, mostly because I didn’t really know how to judge it. How do you rate your first meeting with your fifteen year old son who is a complete stranger?  We asked what they thought and they all said they thought it went really well. They said he was so happy, so smiley, and very talkative. They said they hadn’t expected him to say much at all but the fact that he had initiated a few questions and responded to some of ours had surprised them and demonstrated how happy he was. I remember thinking I didn’t see any of those things. I remember my heart sinking as I had not been able to see that in him. I grew more anxious at the thought that what we had experienced was “talkative” for him and that they had considered him more expressive then usual. It was going to be really hard to connect and attach to a child who was so hard to read and communicated so little.  It wasn’t until later that night after watching the videos and seeing the photos that I could see his smile. I hadn’t seen that smile in the past 3 years. They told us that since telling him two weeks ago, he is a different boy. He is smiling all the time and very happy, telling his friends about us and showing them his photo book. 

Before we left, some friends of ours who have also adopted from Ethiopia were praying for us. They prayed for our first meeting and while praying had mentioned something about it potentially being awkward. I remember being caught off guard, not having ever considered the possibility and yet hoping that it wouldn’t be. It took me a day to process it all, take it all in and let go of the moment I had hoped it would be. 

That night I woke up around 5am I was wide awake and I found myself asking God why he chose me to be D’s mom.  I was feeling inadequate and still slightly overwhelmed at the reality I was finally living in.  I was going to be a mom to a child God had chosen, a child who had 15 years of life that I knew quiet literally nothing about. A child I could barely communicate with, a child who, even with those he knows best is regarded as quiet and reserved. I have worked with and loved the kids that are loud and crazy. I am drawn to the “wild ones”, the ones that everyone else regards as “bad”. And here God had hand picked the quietest one. I found myself giving way to trusting that God knew what he was doing, even though it was overwhelming in the moment to me. 

Day 2: Friday May 26

Today we spent most of the day at the guesthouseresting. Little Man had off from school so we were initially a little bummed that we weren’t scheduled to go see him until 4:30pm. However, by yesterday afternoon jet lag and the overwhelm of the journey, the anticipation and finally meeting D for the first time, we were exhausted and grateful to get to rest. We played hanabi and monopoly deal after breakfast until lunch. Took a 3.5 hour nap and woke up just in time to get ready to leave.

Today all the kids were there so we were able to observe Little Man interact with his peers. When we got there and Little Man saw us, a huge smile broke out on his face. A few of his friends starting calling his name and saying “Mom” and “dad” in amharic. Little Man smiled shyly in response. One boy about Little Man’s age has significant special needs became ecstatic when he saw us. He rushed over to Little Man, saying his name over and over. This little boy was beaming with joy and our guide told us he was so happy for Little Man. Little Man responded so kindly to this boy, which made this momma’s heart soar. Little Man is definitely quiet, but he was not shy when it came to soccer. We played a “monkey in the middle” type game and he played hard, rarely getting in the middle, and quickly getting out when he did. 

Because of the altitude (we are blaming the altitude for pretty much everything and will likely continue to do so after getting home) ;) we were much more easily winded than the boys were while playing soccer. After a while we suggested a game, you know, one that requires sitting. We went inside and with about 6 other boys and Little Man played a few games of Uno. They play until there is only one person left, numbering the winners. Many of the other boys are quite outgoing, rambunctious and as our guide said, “wild”. Little Man is one of (if not the) oldest boys there. We quickly realized that while he maintained his quiet reserved demeanor, he became the moderator and peacemaker. The other boys would all be yelling and Little Man would in his quiet yet firm way make a decision about who got what cards or what not. Even amidst the shouting it seemed that when D spoke they listened. He seemed to be well liked and respected by the other boys. Our guide later said that D and his best friend E who is about the same age are regarded as the peacemakers among the kids. Whenever there is an issue, the kids and even the nannies will often call for one of them to help settle it. At one point two kids were fighting, one twisting the others arm. D saw it and promptly made them stop. 

When we arrived the guide would have his friends come over and introduce themselves to us. Most were happy to do so. One boy, E, whom we learned was D’s best friend, saw us and did not want to come and say hi. He did not look angry necessarily but definitely not happy to see us. He did not join us for soccer and I noticed him watching us at a distance. My heart broke for him as he knows it is a matter of time before we take his best friend, his brother away. There are not many older boys left, as many of them have been adopted or they get moved to a transition home. When we went to play uno, E would walk in carrying a younger child, playing with the babies in the home. He did not join us for the game though. After a few games I went out to find him and asked him if he wanted to play. I expected him to say no, but he agreed and joined us. It’s so hard to be there and get to know the other children and yet know that you are only taking one home. You think of how your adopting a child, but it’s not until you're there that the reality of all the ones you didn’t choose punches you in the gut.  

Day 3: Saturday, May 27

We had been (wide) awake since 3am so this morning was rough. We vowed to not take naps this afternoon and thanks to coffee, card games, and wifi we succeeded. Looking forward to sleeping through the prayers… can you pray for that? ;)

We went to see Little Man today and introduced a few other games. We played checkers first and oh. my. goodness. does that boy have an attention span. He was so strategic and thoughtful about each move… thinking multiple moves ahead each time. I’d bet money it was seriously the longest game of checkers ever played but it was amazing to see him concentrate so hard and play so strategically. By the end he was playing against meek, me, and a crew of boys who had joined our side to help us because we were losing THAT badly. 

Next we played memory and he again beat us, remembering matches like a champ. It was fun to get to see him interact with his “brothers”. He remains quiet and gentle mannered, but is definitely competitve. After winning his 4th game, Meek asked him if he liked to win.  He busted out a big smile and said, “yes”.  

When we arrive, he has a huge smile on his face and greets us with a hug. When we leave he gives us a hug, now unprompted by our guide.  His friends were teasing him today as they watched and said, “Little Man does not like hugs”.  

Today we asked him what movies he has seen. He shared he has seen about half the Harry Potter movies, and we told him that we’ve listened to all of them on our long road trips and have watched all the movies.  He has also seen action hero movies, tom and jerry and “animation”. 

Little by little we are getting to know him and see his personality peak through his quiet demeanor. He is such a sweet boy, patient (as evidenced as he had one boy climbing all over him, clearly annoying him but still did not respond harshly) thoughtful, strategic, and kind. What a journey we’ve been on. It’s taken 3 years to get to this point, but in many ways, the journey is just beginning. We can’t wait to see where God takes us from here.

Yes, No, Maybe So.....

Thursday morning 9am:  We get a call from our worker letting us know that Little Man went to court and testified he wanted to be adopted (again) and they received and approved all the paperwork they had wanted. We are just waiting on a court date and the judge said he needed to clear some room in his schedule but had scheduled cases earlier that week for the end of June.  Our worker cautiously explained how things were still uncertain and how there was a chance that we could go and adopt him and still not be able to bring him home.  “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel” she said soberly.  

We decided that no matter what, we would keep taking steps towards bringing him home, so if we got a court date, we would go and adopt him, even if that meant we had to leave without him and come home and wait a LONG time before he could join us here.

Friday morning 9am: we get a call from our worker saying we have a court date for MAY 30th! An hour later she tells us we need to be in country no later then Thursday. After looking at flight options, we will be leaving for Ethiopia on TUESDAY. Like in 3 days.  

This adoption stuff is quite literally, mind boggling. 

 

Yes, no, wait. Hurry up, no, wait. Yes, maybe, uh, hmmm, nah, maybe, nope. and then finally a yes, with a big MAYBE on the end.  

Now, for all the questions we don’t have answers to.

We bought one way tickets because we don’t know when we will be coming back. 

At this point we will meet Little Man and get to spend some time with him, but he will not be leaving the orphanage to come and stay with us in country.

When we go to court on the 30th, we will become Little Man's legal parents, making him a McCallister! 

As of right now, unless things start moving again, we will be coming home without Little Man and waiting indefinitely until things start to move again. SO PLEASE PRAY that while we are there, the suspension of adoptions gets lifted and we can just stay and bring Little Man home! There are over 20 families who have legally adopted their children and can not bring them home because of this suspension of adoptions in Ethiopia. There are many many more who are matched with a child and stuck somewhere in the process because of this suspension. Please pray for those in leadership on the U.S. side and in Ethiopia, that they will use their positions wisely to help these precious kids be united with their forever families. 

Taking this next step by faith....

When your YES means NO

Sometimes, when you give God a big “yes” all you can hear is the thousands of little “no’s” that you have to say to honor the “yes”. 

For us those “no’s” have looked like: no having babies, no doing foster care, no moving, saying no to 3 jobs in preparing to leave to go get our boy,  no to approximately 1,457 commitments over the last 3 years because “we may not be here”. It has looked a lot like, hurry up and wait. It has required us to say no to caring for other kids in need of a forever family. 

Some “no’s” were harder then others. Some quite literally have broken my heart. And yet, we’ve been holding tightly to the “yes” we gave God 3 years ago, trusting that the “no’s” would be worth it in the end. The last few weeks have been pretty full of bad news. We have gotten a few more updates, most of which have not been positive and none of which we are able to share in this forum. We’ve had to circle back around to the the question of, will it still be worth it if the end doesn’t look like what we had hoped?

Will all those no’s come back with a vengeance when we get to the end of this chapter and it doesn’t end with a family of three? 

And while my mind won’t waver on the truth that God is just as good and just as sovereignregardless of the outcome, my heart wrestles with that truth daily in the way I choose my attitude in response to this increasingly difficult circumstance. 

I want to be thankful. “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” and yet, there are many days when I have to work really hard to find things to be grateful about within the walls of this particular situation. We’ve been reluctantly rejoicing that Little Man knows, because now the uncertainty and the wait affects him differently then it did before.  And God forbid, he doesn’t get to become a McCallister, I can’t imagine the pain and loss he would have to go through at losing yet another family and now having to be on his own, alone. 

When we said YES, we simultaneously said NO to being in control and getting to write the pages of our story. We became the characters in the story, not the author. There’s a helplessness that comes with literally having no say or no impact over the decisions being made for you and about your family and your future. 

And while that reality can be overwhelming and terrifying, it is in those moments I have to choose to go back to the truth my mind won’t waver from which is that we serve the same good God in the midst of every yes and every no. 

You can pray for a miracle, pray for movement and favor, pray for those in charge making decisions, pray for Little Man's heart in this uncertainty and pray for us that we would have mustard seed faith each day and choose to be grateful in each circumstance. 

Blessed be your name

From Meek:

When I was a freshman in high school, I remember walking through our court yard and seeing a dollar on the ground. I thought that was pretty lucky, so I bent down to pick it up. Just as I went to grab it, the dollar moved out of reach, seemingly by the wind. I took a quick step, tried to stomp the dollar, bent down again to grab it and each time the dollar jumped at the last second. Finally, I took off my back pack and threw it at the dollar and as I did, a group of seniors lost it. They had tied fishing string around the dollar and were pulling it away as people reached for it. Apparently I had given them the best show of the day as they were laughing hysterically…

Brittany:

It’s hard to put into words the whirlwind of the last few weeks, and even more so the last 24 hours. 

To give you a quick re-cap.  We found out four weeks ago that we had our final approval from Federal Ministry of Women Youth and Children’s Affairs (MOWYCA). Our team was requesting a court date for the first week of May. We were anticipating getting our court date which would determine our travel date sometime this week. We had started packing. We were taking typhoid pills and had gotten yellow fever shots. We were scheduling follow up appointments withLittle Man’s doctors. We’d talked to travel agencies. We had scrambled to get his room done. I had given my last day’s notice (for the third job i’ve quit during this process) and been transferring my case load. We had gotten someone to house sit and were making arrangements for schooling when he gets home. This was finally happening, after 3 long years, we were actually going to go get our son. 

On Monday we got a notice that Little Man had to appear in court to testify that he wanted to be adopted. He did this previously and this is customary with older children but he went over a year ago so apparently the court wanted him to do it again since so much time has passed.  We were told we would hear something, again, most likely our court date within a few days.  Tuesday and Wednesday passed with no word. Then on Thursday we got notification that Federal MOWCYA has suspended the review of all adoption cases immediately and indefinitely. There was no reason given or time line given. While we already have our approval, they are also not issuing the letters we would need after our court hearing to get our US embassy appointment to process Little Man’s citizenship.  Consequently, we will not be traveling in a week like we thought we would. Initially, this meant that we would wait until MOWYCA opens up again which most likely will take months. At that point the court systems shut down for a few months in the fall. So we were looking at potentially traveling sometime at the end of the year. We were told he most likely didn’t know about us specifically and they would wait to tell him until things became more clear.

Meek:

This was the backpack throwing moment. Just as I was sure back then that I could catch the dollar with my bag, we were sure that we were going to get our son. We had his room ready, we had just bought him a couple pair of shoes, we contacted a travel agency, we were packing bags… This was our all in moment. The moving target we had been chasing was actually within reach. We finally let ourselves get excited and let our guards down enough to feel the emotion of the moment. We thought it was safe, so we threw our backpack at it.

Brittany:

Friday we were able to talk with our worker and she had some different information for us.

Little Man did not go to court on Monday. Instead his guardian (a neighbor) was summoned to appear (again) to testify that he is an orphan.  This has to happen before May 17th as that’s the date they have assigned to review this step. At that point Little Man may also have to appear in court. The team in Ethiopia is hoping that we will then be able to get a court date and travel even if MOWYCA has not opened back up yet. We would go for about a week to do court and then come back and wait for an unknown amount of time, until MOWYCA will issue the letter we need for our embassy appointment.  While this is more hopeful news, it’s still an extremely uncertain timeline for events happening in a very unstable process. 

We also found out that Little Man did find out about us. This, quite honestly, sounds like it was an accident, as the worker told him because she thought we were coming in the next few weeks and did not know about the delay. Had she known she would not have told him because it can be really difficult for children to learn about a family wanting them but not understand why they aren’t coming for them. They often don’t have the ability to understand that we aren’t coming because we can’t, not because we don’t want to. We barely understand the road blocks we keep encountering, let alone a child in survival mode trying to wrap their minds around this.  We may be able to correspond with him sometime in the future but have not been given the green light to do this yet (nor do we know what this would look like).

On my bathroom mirror is a phrase scribbled in green letters that I wrote on there a few weeks ago as we were feeling overwhelmed with the rush of all the things that needed to be done before we left. 

There is a enough grace for this moment.

Those words were true then, and they are true now.  We are devastated and crushed. I fell asleep last night with tears streaming down my face as Little Man’s face wouldn’t leave my mind. I just desperately wanted to be with him. To look him in the eyes, to hear his voice, to learn his laugh. God set us on this peculiar path three years ago, simultaneously pausing all the plans and goals we had for ourselves. It doesn’t make earthly sense. but neither does the Gospel. And neither does our hope.  

Meek and Britt:

A few weeks ago when we shared the news that we were finally going to be traveling to get our son, it was easy to praise God and to give Him glory. Today it’s harder. But If God is not the same good loving God when life isn’t going the way that we want, as He is when life pleases us, then He can’t be trusted. The Bible doesn’t work in that scenario. We have put our faith in the God of the Bible and we know that He loves us beyond measure in the midst of great joy, and in the midst of intense pain. We know that suffering is not pointless, and we have felt the comfort of a loving Father in the midst of this news that we really don’t like. 

We are pretty crushed, we have both cried, and God is so good. We ask our 4th and 5th grade boys in Sunday School, “Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means that your life will be uncomfortable?” Our answer is yes. We believe that we are pursuing what God has called us to and even through the process has taken 3 times as long as we originally thought, and been much more difficult than we expected, we don’t believe that we misunderstood Him. So in the things that go the way we like and in the things that don’t, we give God praise. Here’s our song tonight.

Blessed be Your name

When the sun's shining down on me

When the world's 'all as it should be'

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name

On the road marked with suffering 

Though there's pain in the offering 

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your glorious name!

 

 

The Words We've Been Waiting to Hear

April 26, 2014- we saw this precious little face with the biggest smile that would melt your heart.  Within an hour of seeing his face we were having a discussion about whether or not we were supposed to pursue bringing this little guy into our family.  Within days we decided YES.

 

Fast forward through many ups and down, highs and lows…

 

March 27, 2017- we get the call from our worker saying we have FINALLY been approved.  We have received our last and final approval and now are waiting on a court date. Right now they are expecting us to travel early to mid May.  We are still waiting to see what happens with his test results on April 28th. If anything comes back positive he will have to stay in country for treatment for 10 weeks which means we will go over twice. Once for our court hearing to adopt him and then come home while he gets treated and then go back to do his citizenship and bring him home.  If everything comes back fine with his test then we will mostly likely do one trip and be in country about 4 weeks!

We are sending a photo book and a letter and they will tell him about us when they get those and then we can start sending letters back and forth. 

We are so excited! We are overwhelmed. We are grateful and humbled that God continues to move us down this path of many unknowns.  In many ways it feels surreal. God has been good to us throughout this entire journey. God was just as good when things were hard and delayed as He is now with this wonderful news. Part of our journey is coming to an end and an even bigger part is just beginning. We’re looking forward to all that God has in store for us!!

Finally... an exciting update!

We finally have an exciting update to share! One of the longest waiting cases in Ethiopia has moved forward which now makes us the longest waiting case of our agency’s Ethiopia families! This is good news because it shows that the process is moving on some of these cases and ours should be the next priority. The team in Ethiopia actually felt confident enough to give us an estimated time frame, something we haven’t had in over a year and half. There’s a realistic possibility that we could have our final approval by April, and travel shortly after!

Right now, our prayer is that they will indeed review our case soon and give us a positive recommendation (aka final approval).  This will be the third time they have reviewed our case and we are hoping that they are satisfied with the extra paperwork they have asked for.  Little Man also has to have some tests done and they will be completed by the end April as well. We’re also praying that those results come back negative so that he does not have to stay in country for any treatments, which potentially could delay us bringing him home. 

Depending on when we get approved and when Little Man’s results come back, there are a couple ways our travel plans could work out.  If we get the approval in the time frame we hope, and Little Man’s test results come back negative we could travel to do our court date and legally adopt him and have our Embassy appointment for citizenship in one trip. That would be about a 4 week trip max. If the timing doesn’t work out like we hope, we may then do one trip for court, come back home and wait until things are ready for the embassy appointment, and make another short trip to bring Little Man home. We’re hoping to be able to make one trip and spend more time in country with little man. Both options have hard pieces to them so pray that the Lord would work out those details!  

Many people have asked, does he know about us yet.  The answer is still no.  Because our timeline keeps getting pushed back, they have decided to wait until we get our final approval.  Pray for him, that God would be preparing his heart and mind, as he will have little time to process through the news of a family and moving to an unfamiliar place and leaving all he's ever known.

Lastly, we usually get updates of him every two months with pictures and sometimes videos.  He enjoys drawing and is really quite good! They will sometimes send us photos of his drawings. In our most recent update, there was a video of him painting furniture and a photo of many of his drawings, including one where he drew different pieces of furniture!!!  

We appreciate your love, prayers and support! Thank you friends!!! 

A hard conversation

Dear friends, 

Can we have a hard conversation? One where there is complete honesty spoken from a place of intimacy shared among close friends? My intention is the same with this post as it is with every other thing we’ve posted on here for the world to see and that is simply: to honestly and vulnerably pull back the curtain into our worlds, and more specifically our hearts and minds, as we journey down this road the Lord has sovereignly set us upon.  So please don’t read this as berating or complaining because I have sat on this for so long that this is more of a reflection than a reaction.

Throughout this journey we have had many people assume many things. One of the most predominant assumptions is that we are adopting because we have fertility issues. Which is an understandable conclusion as many people in our stage of life without children who adopt do struggle with infertility. We chose to adopt first because this is what we believe God has called us to do. He made it very clear that this was the way he wanted us to start our family. And so we began this process. We have not struggled with infertility. Yet, as our wait has lingered on, some well meaning people have made comments advising us not to wait too long to “have our own” or have subtly (and not so subtly) asked us if we are going to start trying while we wait. People have tried to encouraged us by saying that maybe once we bring Daniel home we will get pregnant, as if in some way our “obedience” in adoption will be “rewarded” with a baby. Others have flat out told us we should have a baby.

I get it.  The way we’re building our family is unorthodox. Adoption. A teenager. International. It’s strange. But please hear me when I say that growing your family through adoption is in no way a “lesser” way of making of family. Adoption is not second place or a backup plan. It’s simply what we believe is God’s plan for our life. And we want His A plan, even if it’s hard, even if it’s confusing, and even if it’s uncomfortable. 

So dear friends, when we hear the implication that we are wasting our time waiting for this child my heart grieves. Not at the implication that we’re being ignorant or passive in “wasting time” but because of the worldview behind it that indicates having a baby is superior or better then adopting. The implication that the time we’ve spent in our journey to bring our son home is less valuable then if we had spent that time trying to get pregnant or doing fertility treatments. I’m not saying those things are wrong. I am saying that every child’s life has value. Every child deserves a family. And while foster care and adoption are never ideal because they both start from a place of brokenness and loss, they are not lesser ways of starting a family. We’re not settling for second best, we’ve chosen to prayerfully consider and obey God’s best for us.

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P.S. If by chance you are reading this and have said something along these lines to us, please do not feel bad or that this is directed towards you. I hope you are not angry that I have not said something to you directly.  I am a big believer in talking directly to people and not posting grievances on the internet so please know that this is not my intention. In fact, there are many times when things are said that I’m just processing in the moment and it’s not until many days or even weeks later that I am able to put into words my heart on the matter.  The Lord has used each conversation to prod me to reflect more and deeply on our journey and His truth and it is that perspective that I wish to share with others.