What I have learned 2 years later. Adoption and Hot Topics.

It has been exactly 2 years since I went to my son’s orphanage by myself and took him into my care. That moment is so fresh in my mind. Much like the moment I gave birth to my sweet girls. Oh how glad I am that the very moment I had been waiting nearly 4 years for felt just as though he had come from my womb. I understand that the instant love and feeling of knowing that child is my son is not felt by other couples instantly. But for me it did. My mother bear instincts kicked in and immediately I felt like he was from me.

Well, thats it! From that moment on it was all rainbows and unicorns!

JUST KIDDING! WOWEE! Uhh where do I begin?

I am not going to give every detail of the last 2 years, but I will say this little boy has caused me to see myself in ways I did not want to see. The deepest parts of my heart were revealed at times and I found myself on my knees a whole lot waiting for God to just magically connect my son and I. I expected an easy transition where my precious boy felt so comfortable with us that life would pretty much be like before except just with another human in our house. I’ve always known that parenting changes you but I was not prepared for all that would come with trying to be a mama to this sweet boy who did not come from my womb.

There were days filled with so many tears and times when I thought I am just not sane. I ignored that this sweet boy of mine could be feeling any trauma. But after several months with him and remembering all the adoption workshops and books, I knew this boy was facing a hard transition and ultimately trauma. At 4 months old his precious breast feeding mama relinquished him, he was with several care takers with 1 of those being almost like his mommy, to then all of the sudden this white girl who sounds and looks weird takes him from the only place he had grown to love and know. And not only that! We, his new parents, take him to a new place where most of everyone has white skin, talks different, eats different, sounds different and smells different. Most wouldn’t equate that to trauma but I assure you it is. Two years later I finally realize that doing something like adoption more than likely means getting your hands dirty and allowing it to cost something.

It’s interesting that I am writing this blog nearly 48 months later and it is after one of the most heated elections I personally have ever been through. You see, God has forced me to see and wrestle with topics that would just be easier to ignore and go about my way. But he has placed people in my life who all have challenged me to search deeper into the heart of God. And let me tell you those conversations have ROCKED MY WORLD!

Now let me start by saying that I absolutely feel like adoption should be apart of humanity and especially apart of the person who follows Jesus. That may look different for all but we have a duty has human beings to care for our fatherless. I really believe sometimes it means getting our hands dirty. Adoption is not easy. It more than likely will cost you something and I’m not just talking about money. But I’m pretty sure Christ tells us to take up our cross and follow him.

Matthew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

As I am writing out this blog I can’t help but feel a little fire in my heart after thinking about the election night and days after. That night I decided to say that I was prolife but was #withher. The response I got made my heart incredibly incredibly sad. Not sad because I was offended but sad because I just feel like something is missing within the Christian culture. We would rather fight our political stance than fight for the least of these. But I can empathize because I used to speak the same exact way. I used to preach against abortions but did nothing to fight for the weak, poor, and those hurting in ways I could never imagine. I am not saying that its not ok to fight for that cause. But are we fighting with filling out a bubble on a ballet and debating on facebook or are we getting our hands dirty? And what does that mean anyways?  I absolutely know there are many of you getting your hands dirty, but I also know a huge portion of the church is not.

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James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

The other topic on social media is racism. I used to think that all the stories about racism were just that. Stories. I didn’t understand and really chose not to understand how racism most likely will affect my son someday. And I really didn’t understand that if I was claiming to be “prolife” that I really needed to be prolife and fight for all lives and not just the unborn. Until about 10 months ago. 

I am not going to go into proving racism here, but I will tell you that I humbled my heart, listened, read stories, asked questions and came to the sad conclusion that it definitely does indeed exist today. Y’all I wanted to ignore it and just live in my bubble. I really really did! But I cannot. I must stand up and fight for my beautiful black boy and for all the beautiful black boys out there. Please, I beg you to start researching this topic. Go to coffee with someone who knows and feels the sadness of this very real problem. Be the change for your circle!

My intentions are not to change anyone’s political point of view. I really just want to share on two topics that I really believe I have learned about since our adoption up to this very moment.

Back to the topic that is really heated amongst Christians. Abortion.  I get it. I really do. It pains me to hear of a woman who finds herself in a situation that she sees no way out of. I want that woman to birth that child more than you know! I know that for some it is a careless decision that means nothing to them. I see that. I used to preach against that and only that. Until now. My vote for the D party was a very thought out one. And complicated one that I would love to share over coffee if you desire to understand. It really isn’t the point of my blog right now so I’m not going into it.

Y’all we cannot be prolife if we are not speaking up for ALL LIVES! We can’t vote on this issue if we don’t get our hands dirty with the orphan, the lost, poor, and minorities. It just seems like we would rather debate someone for hours on gun laws, abortion, taxes, people abusing the welfare system, bombing terrorists, building walls than speaking up for those who have no voice and debating with someone about taking a stand for the fatherless, the poor, and those who are outcasts in our society.

Psalm 82:3 “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. 

I started to think about a parallel that may be uncomfortable for most, but to me it is truth. Think of that woman who finds herself in a situation that she sees no way out of. To her, birthing this child. Going through a pregnancy. Hearing people talk behind her back. Raising that child. It all just seems too dirty and impossible. It will cost her too much. And sadly, she goes through with the only option she sees fit for her.

At the same time a church going Jesus loving person attends church every Sunday. Hears multiple sermons on caring for the orphans. Maybe gives here and there to a cause for the orphan. But to them adoption or foster care just seems like it is too hard of a task. Costs too much, literally. They’ve heard stories of failed adoptions, heartache, and of course the thought that they could never love that child like he/she was their own. To that person they pass on an opportunity because it will cost them too much. It meant getting their hands dirty and it just seems more comfortable to keep those hands and their life clean.  And sadly, another orphan dies or gets passed around in a broken system.  Prolife. What does it mean now? YIKES! Please understand my heart here. I am explaining my personal convictions. Convictions I personally have wrestled with. I feel so strongly that we should be getting angry and hurt for the fatherless just as much and maybe even more than the abortion cause.

2 Years later and I feel like my eyes have been opened. Adoption is dirty sometimes. Bringing a human being into this world you weren’t prepared for is dirty as well. But Jesus restores and can bring beauty from ashes. He is doing that with our son as he so beautifully knits our hearts together everyday while creating a bond that was worth the dirty work. Fortunately, we had the funds and the support to bring this child into our family. The mama I just spoke of, did not. But for some reason she is looked down upon and the person who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty with adoption is not even thought twice about. The lack of action in both cases will result in a death.

This post isn’t meant to change any political view but to just see inside what my son has taught me over the last 2 years. I will always advocate for the lost, broken hearted, the widow, the orphan and those who are marginalized in our society. We are called to get our hands dirty and be uncomfortable. I believe I have many more uncomfortable moments coming my way but I know getting my hands dirty means more lives will be fought for.

Deuteronomy 10:18 “He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing.”

Today is my son’s gotcha day. So I will celebrate this amazing restoration that our story holds. Thank you Jesus for brining this beautiful precious loving funny little guy into our lives. He truly has created change in our hearts. Thank you for teaching us that there is restoration and beauty after many days of dirty hands.

Here are photos of our first moments

The top right were our very first photos of him. The left photo was Y with his nanny who’s heart was broken the day I took him away from her forever. The bottom right was his first night with me. With adoption comes heartache.

But His mercies are new every morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

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Homecoming and Big Surprises at Home!

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There are 4 moments since we started the adoption that I could not wait to experience. Our referral, 1st time meeting my son, checking my son out of his orphanage, and our homecoming. Yesterday was simply beautiful. The emotion that I was feeling when our plane landed in Denver brought such a great amount of tears, joy, and relief. My sweet friend, Becky with Good Photo captured our moment when Kenton and I got to introduce Yabsira to Isabel, Adeline, and the rest of our friends and family.

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This was the moment when the girls saw him for the first time. Priceless.

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Meeting uncle Ryan.

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Grandma’s turn.

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Meeting Beckys’s son who is also from Ethiopia.

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So relieved to be in daddy’s arms again.

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Meeting Aunt Heather and cousin Avery.

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Family of 5. My heart is happy!

As we left the airport, I looked at my husband with tears in my eyes after seeing my 3 kiddos buckled in our car, and said “we did it!”

We stopped at my sister’s on the way home to eat some yummy soup she made and Yabsira did so well-making his silly faces causing laughter to everyone around.

We finally made it home and as I pulled up to our house, I noticed that our huge pile of mulch that we’ve had in the driveway since the beginning of the summer was gone. I looked over to our front yard that has been dirt and a mess since we moved in, and gasped! I couldn’t believe what I saw! Our yard was landscaped! All but grass. While we were gone our friends came to our house, drew up a plan for our yard, pulled a tree stump, placed rock, mulch, edging, and sprinklers in our yard. WHAT??!! Who does that? And it doesn’t stop there. We walked into the garage and it was completely clean. They got rid of things I didn’t need anymore, sold furniture that I knew I wouldn’t be able to paint, and made it so our car would be able to fit. Blown away. My friends sure know how to love big. Thank you thank you thank you, Jon and Becca Day, Amy and Kyle Kelly, Jen and Jonathan Bolton, and Mike and Michelle Heath.

Today on this Thanksgiving day, I am overwhelmed with joy and full of gratitude. The love and support shown to us by our friends and family during our journey has been unimaginable. I am completely humbled. Thank you Jesus for showing up big in our story.

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Beauty from Ashes

Today is day of rest for me. I am soaking up every minute as I lay in my bed listening to the sounds of Addis outside my door. What an amazing gift I’ve been given to be able to reflect on my life, what it has been, and what I hope it to be in the next coming years. I went into this trip preparing my heart and eyes for the worst. I automatically assumed I would be broken and that I would return to the US feeling down and depressed for the things I would see here. The truth is I have been blessed beyond words. My heart is so full. Yes, I have had moments when the tears could not be held back from some of the sights outside my van window from various trips to and from the orphanage. Especially when I saw several women in a row on the sidewalk all holding their babies; looking as though they were sick and struggling for every breath. And several times the lump in my throat made its home as I played with the older children in Yabsira’s orphanage. Oh but how these children I get to hug and kiss every time I visit have blessed me so. I can only beg, plead, and pray with tears pouring out to the Lord that every one of them would be placed with a FOREVER FAMILY.  Their faces and laughs will forever have a home in my heart. Please pray with me that they would be met with grace, love, and mercy because that is what they have shown me. They deserve it. Sad does not even begin to describe the feeling I will have when it is my final goodbye to these precious children.

Like I said my time here has forced me to reflect. The last two nights by myself I’ve had moments to think about the kind of person I have been, and I can feel the Lord changing the areas that I desperately want to hold on to. Things that have been a god to me. Things that the Lord is saying its time to let go of. So here it goes. Here is my confession that has been holding me back for years. Friends, I’ve struggled with being comfortable in my own skin for as long as I can remember. I’ve had an image in my mind of what beauty is to me and wondered how or if I ever could achieve it. My mind, like so many other women, has been misguided to believe the lie that beauty is on the outside. I’ve known in my head that beauty is in the heart, but for years I chose to ignore and focus only what is on the outside. I’ve been a gym rat to keep my body looking a certain way. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to exercise and I will continue, but I am being challenged to look deep inside the insecure places that have a hold on me so I can walk in a beautiful freedom. Being here has caused me to rest, eat good food, and enjoy life without that voice in my head telling me “you’re gonna get fat from eating this.” It has been an amazing freedom.

I come from a line of women on both sides of my family that have a certain body image in their minds. It breaks my heart when I think of them and the lies they have been told, but I was headed down the same road. Oh the freedom we all could have if we just choose to embrace true inner beauty. Kara Tippetts just wrote a book called the Hardest Peace. In it she says, “What God has patiently taught me over the years is the difference between pretty and beautiful. Pretty is what was valued in my childhood home, something that involves primping and painting and covering over so as to be acceptable in society’s eyes. Beautiful, on the other hand, is the revelation of what is truly and naturally there, often through suffering.” The other night I found myself in tears thinking about what I’ve been teaching my girls. Many mornings I remember my Isabel coming downstairs, fully dressed in an outfit she had picked out. She would be so proud of it and with one look from me, she knew I didn’t approve. I have wept over this realization. I, her own mother, have taken some of her confidence away. Now I must undo what she has learned. Teach her how to have fun with clothing, give her some modest guidelines, but let her lead to help her develop her own confident style. I can’t wait to hold my girls, tell them how beautiful they are, and how I love every part of them.

The last few days I have had an amazing opportunity to visit a few ministries here in Addis. A new friend of mine, who has a wonderful heart, started one in Korah (near the dump) called Carry 117. His vision is to help single mothers who survive by eating, selling, and finding anything from the dump by teaching them how to make things like wine bags, ipad cases, purses, and more. In doing this, they learn to be confident women who make beautiful items, while earning a living for herself and her children. I got to meet 2 of the women. True beauty shown as a result of their suffering. I visited a place called Women at Risk yesterday. This ministry transitions women out of prostitution by first working with them for 6 months, helping them heal and restore their hearts, and then teaching them how to make the most beautiful scarfs. I actually got to see their place of work. As I walked in, I saw each woman with scars of their past, carefully creating a new story with every weave they made. They greeted me with their beautiful smiles and laughter. There it was, true beauty displayed right in front of me. Those moments will be ones that I will forever hold on to, because right there I learned what inner beauty looks like for He has given beauty from Ashes.

It is very uncomfortable for me to be open about this insecurity, but I know I’m not the only one who struggles in this area.  If I can help another with my story, then the vulnerability is worth it. I am a work in progress but that is ok. Allowing Him to work in my deepest hard areas creates the true inner beauty that has been waiting to come out and shine.

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The moment I’ve been dreaming about for over 3 years

Hey friends,
Our time so far has been pretty awesome. Yesterday we tagged along with another guest here to church and lunch. I’m so glad we did! Loved worshiping with such passionate people! Nardi, our guest house director, is wonderful. She cares so much about our happiness and you can tell with every little detail she has put into this home, and how she makes sure we have full and happy bellies. She is a young woman who said God’s grace and mercies has allowed her to run this successful business. I’m excited to get to know her. She said when Kenton leaves that she and I will have a lot of fun because I will be her only guest 🙂
This morning we woke up with excitement! The day we have been fantasizing about for 3 years was finally here.  Today we got to finally meet our son! After an hour drive across Addis, we finally got to the orphanage. They took us into a little room and we waited. Soon about 4 staff members came in with one of them holding the most precious boy I HAVE EVER seen. The nannies were all smiles from ear to ear. They spoke no English, but I heard them call us mommy and daddy and  hearing them say his name warmed my heart. We learned that the Y is actually silent. And I just realized that we haven’t really gone public with his name. His birth name, which we are keeping, Yabsira and it means work of God. One nanny sat down with Yabsira and the other staff member expressed to us that Yabsira loves that particular nanny. Oh my heart! I could tell that this woman has been taking such good care of our boy as if he were her own. We tried to interact with him by pulling out different toys and a picture book. He looked at a picture of our family and then looked at us with the most confused expression. We then gave him a toy that lights up and plays music when a button is pushed. He loved that. Several times the nanny would say “mommy” and point to me. She would try to put him down but he quickly climbed back into her lap. At one point she pulled my head down to his head so Yabisra and I would be cheek to cheek, but he didn’t want to have anything to do with me being close at all. So we kept telling her it was ok and we started playing silly games with a ball that lights up when bounced. We let him bounce it on our heads to make it light. After about 45 minutes, we could tell he was getting sleepy and sure enough he fell asleep right in front of us. He snuggled into his nanny and allowed himself to rest. I took her hand, with tears in my eyes, and said thank you and that I loved him. She told me one of the pictures that our agency gave us of him on a nanny’s lap was her. As tears rolled down her face, she took part of her scarf that was wrapped around her and covered part of him as he rested well in her arms and then kissed him on his head. I know that this is going to hurt so deeply for she and Yabisra. They have a bond that is very special and their hearts will be broken. Just another example of how adoption is full of brokenness. I wish I could tell her that we would be back to visit every year, but we know that is just not realistic. The only thing I can commit to is making sure she gets photos and updates on him as much as possible, but to me it doesn’t seem like that is enough for as much has she has done for him. I learned a lot from her today. I learned how to love so big even when it means there is definite heartache in the end. I could tell she was so excited about him finally having a mommy and daddy which gives you a glimpse of the love this woman has in her heart. So I left a little sad thinking about everyone’s hearts soon to be severed involved in this process. Will you please say some prayers for Yabsira and his nanny?
We ended today with tours of a huge church, museum, Ethiopian food, and a nap. Tomorrow we will arise early to meet our boy again.

 

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Final Push to Help Bring Our Son Home!

As I type this today we have 3 weeks left until we get on a plane to fly 13 hours to finally meet our son! I cannot tell you how excited I am. I literally can be brought to tears just thinking about it. For one, we obviously get to meet our new beautiful boy and 2; we get to take in the amazing country of Ethiopia! This will be Kenton and I’s first trip to Africa and my first big flight EVER. About 5 hours to DC and then 12 hours to Ethiopia! YIKES! As school and volleyball has started, my husband and I have been challenged in this busy season with getting ready for our trip and coming up with the last minute funds to travel. While Kenton continues to work in the housing business and take most of the responsibilities of the family due to my decision to keep on coaching, I’ve been searching for little openings in my day to get some painting in.  I’ve been thankful that I’ve been able to sell some furniture pieces, paint for others, and now Plexus to get us that much closer to paying cash for our next 2 trips that we have to take. That’s right I said 2 trips. Kenton and I will fly out on October 3rd and arrive in Ethiopia on October 5th. We have court the 9th and then Kenton will travel back on the 14th. I have decided to stay in Ethiopia because my friend, Laura, has a nonprofit called Brighton Their World and she happens to be taking a team to Ethiopia on the 19th. So I will hook up with them as soon as they are in country. I’ve never done a mission’s trip before and Kenton and I just felt like I couldn’t pass up the opportunity since I would already be there.  Laura and her husband started this ministry because of a heartbreaking experience they went through when they started their adoption journey for the first time several years ago. They had a referral for a sweet baby boy whom they decided to name Brighton. Sadly, sweet baby boy Brighton passed away due to malnutrition. Brighton Their World was started in his honor to focus on sending formula to orphanages in Ethiopia. During the week the team is there, we will get to love on precious children in the orphanages that Brighton Their World donates to.  OH MY WORD I am extremely over the moon to be a part of Laura’s team!

I will end up coming home on the 25th. Then we wait for our son’s visa to be processed which should be about 6 weeks after our court date on October 9th. With that said, we are hoping to travel again in November possibly around Thanksgiving.

With only 3 weeks left, we are out of time.  We have been so blessed in the last three years as we pulled off two HUGE garage sales, a Both Hands widows and orphans project, sewing tutus, making cake pops, painting furniture, Kenton’s housing commissions, generous donations from friends and family and now Plexus to have exactly what we need as the next payment was due.  At this point we estimate that we have about $5,000 left to come up with. It may be less depending on how long we have to stay in country the 2nd trip and how much our plane tickets will cost the 2nd time around. Considering that when we started, we had an estimate of $30,000 to come up with, we think $5,000 is pretty awesome! It has been amazing to see God’s faithfulness during this entire process! I keep dreaming of being able to write a check to another adoptive couple trying so hard to come up with the funds in hopes to bring their child home as so many others have done so for us. With that said we are simply asking if you would think and pray about making a tax deductible donation into our adoption account. Please click on the link below to donate. Thank you, friends! We are so close! In just 3 weeks I will get to share the most beautiful boy EVER with you! AS soon as we past court, you will get to see his sweet handsome face!

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Forever Grateful for my Son’s Birth Mom.

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This Mother’s Day there is another woman on my mind. A woman who I have thought about for 3 years but never knew who or where she was. That woman is my son’s birth mom. Yesterday was birth mom day and I saw quite a few posts from fellow adoptive mommas expressing how grateful they were for their child’s birth mom. I hadn’t had time to blog about our son’s birth mom because I was in the kitchen doing cake pops. So today on mother’s day, thanks to my amazing husband, I am able to sit and write about this special woman. I have thought about my son’s mom a lot. I must tell about an incident that happened to me about 2 years ago. I was in my kitchen cooking and a sad emotion hit me like a ton of bricks. I immediately started crying and knew it had to do with our child’s birth mom. I started praying for her. I didn’t know why I was praying. I thought perhaps she was giving birth. I have never forgotten about that day and I’ve even shared that with other moms wondering if anyone had experienced that. Fast forward to the early morning after we got our referral. I was lying awake at 3:00 am and thought about that moment in my kitchen 2 years past. I decided to do the math from conception to the birth of our son and realized that from that moment in my kitchen to when our son was born was about 39 weeks. Maybe I’m over spiritualizing this but I personally don’t see that as a coincidence.
We know a little bit about this precious woman’s story and it is one of courage, strength, brokenness, heartache, and pain. Someday we may share but for now we hold her story close to our hearts. I have cried several times over this young lady. I can only imagine how scared she was at her young age carrying a baby knowing the struggle that would lie ahead. But that fear didn’t stop her from doing the best she could with her precious boy. For 4 months she gave her son all that she could. This courageous woman did the best thing she could do for her son. She nursed him! And we as women know what bonding takes place when you feed a child. That physical touch, the sound and feel of her, her heartbeat, her voice, her breath, her smell, her hands and she kept his little tummy full while she probably had an empty one. Research shows how important those things are for the development of a new born. She did more for our boy than I could ever do for him. I am brought to tears by knowing this part of her. I love her so much. I am so humbled by her courage and strength.
As I want to complain about how crazy my life is right now with cake pops, painting furniture, making tutus and raising a family, I am reminded of her. She worked hard to give her child the best 4 months EVER! Now I must pick up where she left off. I thought about that last night at 10:30 after a whole day of doing pop orders. She motivates me to be the best that I can be at what God has given me. I really believe that is what she did. Her best for him was the 9 months she carried him and the 4 months following. She gave him life and love and I am forever grateful for that.
Adoption happens because of brokenness. I will never downplay the sorrow and pain that this momma (or any momma) felt as she handed her baby over to an orphanage. I can only equate it to the time that I got to be a momma to a new born baby boy a little over a year ago. Saying goodbye and watching our case worker take that sweet boy knowing there was nothing else I could do will always burn my heart. Here is a picture from that time.photo

 It is a feeling that never goes away. The comfort I have in that experience is that God wanted us to feel a tiny and I mean very tiny bit of what our birth mom went through. I feel it is so important for me to think about the sadness and pain she felt as she did what she had to do. To never forget it and never take our adoption for granted.
To my son’s birth mom-I love you and am forever grateful for your courage and strength. For 13 months you gave the best gifts any mom could ever give. You gave love and life and I promise to hold on to that forever.

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