Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Family Hand-Me-Downs

Today, a sweet family that is currently in Ethiopia for their court trip sent us some new photos of our S. It is amazing to see how much he has grown and changed and filled out since he arrived at Hannah's Hope a little over one month ago. I sat at my computer, flipping through photos, beaming and crying and saying "Look at him!!!!" over and over. Yikealo stood beside me and made helpful comments like, "You already said that, Mom!"

Here's the really cool part: in one of the photos he is wearing the SAME swim trunks that Yikealo was wearing on our gotcha day three years ago.
Mr. Y on June 29th, 2009
Little "S" in a photo taken today. How well I remember Y stuffing a toy car that we had given him into that pocket!

In all of the other photos, he was wearing the same shirt that my nephew Jalen Opiyew was wearing in his referral photos.
Jalen, in a photo from last June.
Little "S" in a photo taken yesterday.

We also have photos of both Jordan Uchan and Jalen Opiyew wearing the red and white striped shirt that Yikealo was wearing on our gotcha day...in fact, Jordan was wearing it on the day that Chris and Erica met him last August.

Erica and I pass clothes back and forth all the time for our boys, and I just love the fact that they're already "sharing" hand-me-downs before they ever make it home. Orange lobsters, "Know Your Bugs", and red stripes....classic fashion statements that make this mama cry!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Court Date!

We were utterly shocked yesterday when our case worker called to say that they had already received a court date for us of April 20th! That is at least 2 weeks earlier than our most audacious hope had been...and we are praising God! Exactly one month from right now, we should have less than one hour left on our flight to Ethiopia to meet our son. We are slightly overwhelmed thinking about everything that we have to get done before then, but we are so grateful that things are moving quickly, because our hearts truly are in the horn of Africa at this point.

Mr. Y talks about his new brother constantly. He draws pictures of him, sings to him, and prays faithfully for him. We are just praying that the love continues after the reality of a sibling sets in!

"Mom, this is a picture that I made of my new little brother. I cannot wait until I can give this to him!"
(I'm sure that S will be thrilled!) ;-)

"Mom, here is a picture of me and my brother playing together. I couldn't find a light brown crayon, so I just made me green. Can you please get me one of those mailing things so I can send this to him?"

"I drew a picture of my little brother on my hand, Mom. Now, if I draw me on my other hand, I can make us kiss!"

The last week and a half have been a constant flurry of paperwork and phone calls and planning and relying on God's promises. Two days after our referral, my sweet sister sent us these gorgeous flowers, and in the midst of the craziness, they have made me smile every day!

They have been the perfect reminder of the incredible beauty that follows the work of preparing the soil, planting, tending and watering. We are praying that our little S will make it through this long hard "winter" of his life and blossom into the amazing, beautiful creation that God intends for him to be.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My God is Amazing!

Once again, I stand in complete awe of my Father's love for His children. I am so thankful for the way that He answers our requests and reassures us as He leads us along. I'd like to share just one small experience from Wednesday evening to encourage all of you who look to His guidance.

The medical report for our little S includes some very concerning things...especially in the area of his bloodwork lab results. One of the first things that our agency requires in the acceptance of a referral is a consultation with a pediatrician who specializes in international adoptive health. Our caseworker needs to know that we have been fully apprised of the many potential health issues that we could be facing once we bring our child home. Adoptive parents always have the right to refuse a referral after consulting with the doctor, and in order to accept the referral, a complete report from the doctor must be included with the paperwork. I e-mailed S's files to an international pediatrician on Wednesday afternoon, and she said that she would call us later that evening with her initial thoughts. In the meantime, I told David that I felt certain that the report wasn't going to be pretty. We are used to looking at some seriously messed up lab results with David's Crohn's disease, and we understand what some of these numbers mean. I also told him that I felt like that was one of the reasons that the Lord had given me such an immediate, Mama-bear possessiveness over this little guy...it simply didn't matter what the doctor ultimately had to say, because THIS WAS MY SON!! David felt the same way.

The doctor called around 10 that evening, right as we were heading to bed. Almost all of her statements were somewhat discouraging: "I am EXTREMELY concerned about...", "I can't tell you NOT to accept this referral, but...", "You really need to spend some time looking into these particular websites about this, this, and this issue", "I'm so sorry to just hit you over the head with all of this bad news...". Don't get me wrong, she was more than kind, but she also did her job very well. I told her that she wasn't "hitting us over the head" - in fact, we had not expected her to paint a rosy picture. After the phone call, David headed to bed, and I went to the basement to research and type a report for our caseworker.

By the time I finished, a little after midnight, I was feeling exhausted and slightly overwhelmed. Looking up medical issues online is never fun! My mind was going in circles, with the internal conversation looking something like this:

"This is my son...there can be no doubt about that."
"But what if he's really seriously ill? We already have one chronically ill person in our family."
"Right....so? Maybe that means we're more prepared to deal with this than some families would be."
"But what if he DOES have something life-threatening? What if he doesn't even live long?"
"What does that have to do with anything? Does that mean that he doesn't deserve a family to advocate for him and help him through? SOMEONE needs to step up to the plate and give this precious boy a home...why not us?"
"But what if he has something contagious that could really compromise David who is on continual immuno-suppressants?"
"What if? Don't you think God knows all of that? He doesn't lead you to a place and leave you there. No matter what happens, He knows His plans for all of us, and they are far beyond anything that you could come up with on your own."

I was SO tired, but I felt this great need to pour my heart out to the Lord, so I spent some serious time in prayer. "Father, I'm so exhausted. You know my fears, but You also know that I'm so in love with this little boy. I believe that love is a gift directly from You. I really believe that You have led us here, but neither do I want to run ahead of Your will. You were so faithful when we received Yikealo's referral (for that story, read here and here) Could You please just give me something to hold onto during the days ahead when my faith gets weak? A verse or two that speaks directly to this situation? A moment that I can always look back to and just KNOW that You were there?"

When I finished praying, I opened up my Bible, and the very first verse I saw was: "He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor." WOW! Talk about a direct answer! I continued reading and there was more: "For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight."

By this time, I was weeping and praising Jesus! What a perfect answer! The whole issue was with the lab results on S's blood, and God had just told me that this little boy's blood was precious in His sight! He had said that He would "deliver the needy, the children of the needy, and the afflicted who had  no one to help." I continued reading: "Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long."  By now, I was laughing out loud..."Sheba" nearly always refers to Ethiopia in the scriptures...God was even mentioning my new son's location in His answer to me! I lifted my hands Heavenward and praised Him. Then I had this thought: "Wouldn't it be amazing to read the name David in this Psalm...just as an extra little affirmative that this is referring to a 'son of David?'" I glanced quickly through the remainder of the Psalm and didn't see the name anywhere, but I continued reading: "Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen." The very last verse? "This concludes the prayers of David, son of Jesse."

I was nearly shouting with joy. (David actually woke up and came out to the living room to see what was going on!) I turned back one page to look at the very beginning of the Psalm. There was a little note under the title: "Of Solomon." This was indeed a Psalm written by King David about the future of his son, the future King Solomon. He had prophesied about the riches that would eventually be brought to his son by the kings of the world, including Sheba. That night, it was also God's promise to me about my son...also destined to be a "son of David."

I am so overwhelmed by my God...of the way He loves me...of the way He provides what I need....of the way He never fails to answer my questions. We are definitely moving ahead with S's referral. As of this morning, all of the documents have been signed, notarized, and sent off to our agency, and we are rejoicing in God's truth. This doesn't mean that we expect everything to be rainbows and roses from here on out...in fact, we are expecting some storm clouds and thorns too...but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus will be with us through every single moment, and we couldn't ask for anything better than that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Well, I don't think that I've ever posted twice in one day before, but some things are just too good to let them slide for a day or so! Within 10 minutes of typing in my earlier post today that David and I both felt like we were close to getting our call, the phone rang. When I saw our agency's name on the caller ID, I just KNEW that our moment had come. Sure enough, our caseworker (K) made small talk for a few seconds and then said that she had "a little guy to talk to us about; would this be a good time?"

Unfortunately, it wasn't, as I was in the middle of overseeing Yikealo who was in the middle of an online class with his Kindergarten teacher.  I asked K if I could call her back in a half hour or so, and I immediately called David at work so that he could set up a conference call between the three of us. Then it was back to the computer to learn about Dr. Seuss and to listen to 10 or so Kindergarten students take turns reading painfully slowly: "That hat is yellow. Is it your hat? No, no, no. It is not my hat."  AARRGGHHHH!!!! I don't think I have EVER passed a more excruciating half hour in my entire life!!

Finally, the class was over and we got K back on the phone. Oh my....the details are heartbreaking, but we know that God is a great healer. Our new son is a little over 2 1/2, and he is very malnourished.  He needs your prayers, as does his birth family. We cannot post any photos or personal details about him yet, but for now we'll call him "S". We think that he is beautiful, and he is so OURS! I've heard so many other adoptive parents talk about seeing their referral photos for the first time, and "just knowing" immediately that "this child is mine." I did not experience that at all with Yikealo's referral. God showed us very clearly that he was ours, but I didn't have those loving, possessive, Mama feelings until much, much later. Today was the opposite. The instant that I saw his little face I just KNEW. I can't wait to meet my son!

Yikealo is thrilled, of course! He's been hoping for a little brother, and has spent the evening constantly adding to the list of things that he will be able to teach his new sibling: "Mom, I can teach him how to tie his shoes, and how to blow bubbles, and how to wear costumes! It's okay if I have to share my costumes with him, because then I won't have to dress up by myself anymore! I can help you teach him how to say words too!" I think that the next few months of waiting are going to get very long for Mr. Y....

Here's a photo of him staring at his new little brother, after praying fervently that God would give "S" enough to eat and keep him from dying.

Our agency said that based on the way things have been going recently, we should travel for court in 2.5 - 3.5 months. Assuming all goes well at the court level, we would then be submitted to the US Embassy, and would travel back to Ethiopia to bring "S" home about 2-3 months after that.  The wait is about to get much harder...we have a little face in our hearts now...and we would greatly appreciate your prayers as our process moves forward.

Guess Where We Were!?!?

So...last week, David had a business trip to a certain southern state, and Y and I decided to tag along.
Somebody may have been just a little excited! ;-) We had originally planned to go to Disney last fall. We had planned the trip, set aside the vacation money, and were just ready to book our hotel and flights when David felt very strongly convicted that our vacation money needed to be donated to drought victims in Ethiopia. We quickly regrouped and spent our vacation at our cottage in Michigan instead, but a certain 5-year old had let us know numerous times over the last several months that he wasn't exactly on board with our decision. When we learned a month ago or so that David had a conference to attend at the Walt Disney Dolphin, we decided that we'd all fly down and make a mini-vacation out of it. The timing worked out beautifully: a generous bonus from David's employer and our Christmas money more than covered the extra expense, and of course our hotel room and David's flight were covered by work. Just a little reminder that God's plans are usually better anyway if He asks you to wait  for something!

Yikealo LOVED this trip! He was the most pleasant little boy that I could've imagined in spite of a rather severe sleep deficit. He adored meeting the characters, and enjoyed most of the rides (Space Mountain and Expedition Everest were the big exceptions!) We did, however, ride Splash Mountain 4 times and the Kali River Rapids twice...apparently anything that gets you wet is a big hit with 5 year old boys.

Here are a some photos of our adventures:
 As we walked into the Africa area of the Animal Kingdom, Yikealo proudly informed the two lovely greeters from Botswana, "I used to live in Africa!" They of course asked him where he was from, and when he told them "Ethiopia" they gave him a high five and said, "Welcome home, brother!" As we moved on, he looked up at David and said, "They think I am their brother! Am I really?"
 Meeting Snow White was a huge hit with the boy, although he was too shy to actually say much to her. She started calling him her "bashful prince" which made him quite happy!
Yikealo also fell in love with all of the Viking paraphernalia in Epcot's Norway shops. That's what he decided to spend his money on, and he spent the rest of that evening hacking and slashing away at everything in sight.
The fireworks shows were beautiful, of course, and the one at Epcot had one of those big "We are one" type of songs, as the huge globe turned in the middle of the lagoon, and each of the eleven countries around the lake added their part to the laser show. I am especially prone to goose-bumpy tearing up during those kind of moments right now...especially when the continent of Africa is prominently featured! It was great to be there with David and Yikealo, but I miss our next child too!
The Dolphin is a beautiful hotel, with great pools and a wonderful location. Epcot is actually within walking distance, and complimentary transportation was provided to all of the Disney parks.
One of Y's very favorite things at the Magic Kingdom was yanking away at the "Sword in the Stone" display. It probably had something to do with the fact that David told him that if he could get it out, he would get to be king for the day, but we had to pay repeated visits back to the "Rock and the Stone" as he called it for him to strain and tug at the sword...proving once again that sometimes it's the smallest things that entertain children!
On our last day there, Yikealo begged to have his face painted as a tiger. He delighted in "scaring" everyone on the plane, and when we've asked him since what his favorite part of our trip was, he almost always says, "Being a tiger!"

We definitely had a great time getting away for a few days...and now we're home waiting again. We know that our agency received some new children into their transition home last week, and David and I have both been feeling like we are getting very close to getting our call!