Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 53 - The Gorge

Mark and I decided to get out of the city today and go see the countryside.  Our friend and driver with AWAA, David, came along and we headed to The Blue Nile Gorge about 2 hours outside of Addis Ababa.  This gorge holds a river that feeds into the Blue Nile eventually, and it is loaded with baboons, lush plants, and three waterfalls.

The trip up there was fast and so incredibly beautiful.  The highlands of Ethiopia are a remarkable sight.  We constantly took pictures as the scenery became more and more beautiful.  Zane slept about an hour of the two hour trip up there, and he didn't get car sick (a fear of mine)!  About 30 minutes from the gorge, we stopped at a woman's house (hut) and asked to come in to see how people in the country live.  She was very generous to let us come inside her home, meet her family, and tour her property.  Here are some pictures of the drive up, and our new friend from the country:

So, we taught Zane what the cow says on the trip up there because there are cows EVERYWHERE.  Unfortunately "Moo" became his new favorite word, and that was all he wanted to say for the rest of the trip.

When we finally got to the gorge, we drove back to a restaurant on the cliff (plateau) overlooking dense fog.  We couldn't see anything.  The entire canyon was veiled in an opaque, white cloud.  We continued on trusting that we would see something eventually.  We began to feel the spray of the falls before we could even see them.  It was hard to tell if it was rain or the force of the falls splashing the water back up on us.  Little by little, the fog dissipated and the most beautiful sight was unveiled.  We felt as though we were in National Geographic magazine.  The canyon was layered with lush plant life.  Aloe, mint, and cacti covered the rocky terrain.  1,000 ft. of water rushed with the force of angels wings, mighty yet peaceful.  We approached a 400 year old bridge, supposedly built by the Portuguese although that's debated, and crossed over the falls to the other side of the canyon.  From that side, we continued to climb higher to see the falls from different view points.  Suddenly, a large family of Galada Baboons hopped across our path and seemed to fall over the edge of the cliff.  Their agile bodies clung to the side of the canyon with amazing strength and balance.  We were amazed to be so close to something we've only seen in zoos in America.  There was nothing keeping us from approaching them, except their exceptional speed, and nothing kept them from approaching us.  It was thrilling in every way.

Zane was fully aware of his surroundings.  As an observant naturalist already, he pointed out other baboons hiding in the rocks, the water cutting into the valley, the flowers that grew from the mint plants, and many other sights.  He was enthralled.

We finished our outing with traditional food, tibs, shero, injera, and reluctantly approached the car to return to Addis.  Zane slept the entire way home (PERFECT!), and we silently soaked in the scenery once more.

Mark and I were so happy to have the experience of the country to share with Zane when he gets older.  We want him to know how beautiful his country is, and how incredible the people are.  Today was about more than getting out of town, it was about understanding what makes Ethiopia such a unique country and being able to share that with our son was an experience of a lifetime.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 50...but who's counting?!

Last night I prayed that Zane's tummy would feel full all night long and that he would have sweet dreams.  I prayed his angel would stand guard over him and give him peace and protection throughout the night.  This morning we awoke to a cooing baby playing in his crib after 11 hours of sleep!  Praise the Lord!  God is so good to answer the smallest of prayers to remind us he's still listening.

Zane has eaten table food for breakfast the past two days, which is amazing!  I've been really encouraged as he continues to trust us to feed him things he likes.  After breakfast, we had our devotional and God reminded us again that we can have confidence in Him.  It specifically said in the book that God fights for you, which has been on my heart for the past 5 days or so.  It's amazing how the Holy Spirit gives me a message and then God confirms it later through His word, a devotional, or a pastor.  I believe that God's already gone before us into the embassy, cleared a path for us, and that He is fighting for our case to be handled in His perfect timing.

To get out of the guest house a little bit, Mark and I asked some AWAA friends here if they'd like to take the kids to the African Park.  This park was established as a celebration of the African Union in 2004.  It is extremely well-kept with lush landscaping, fun playground equipment, and even a concession stand.  Zane had an absolute blast.  His whole demeanor changed when he went down a slide again.  He has not gotten to do that since he left the transition home on August 4th.  Mom and I taught him how to slide, so when he saw it, he immediately new what to do.  His laugh was infectious as he slid down the same slide for the 50th time in a row.  It never gets old.

Our time there was such a great bonding experience for our family.  It takes a lot of trust to get on playground equipment, like a slide, and expect someone to catch you at the bottom.  It also is a great way to make eye-contact, laugh together, and experience Mommy and Daddy in a silly new way.  We are so thankful for the time we spent there, and for our new friends who chose to come along with us!

Zane took a 2 1/2 nap today - another big blessing since he slept so long last night!  Mark and I napped with him, and felt very refreshed.  We had a fun afternoon playing in the room, kicking the soccer ball outside, and going to dinner at Zebra Grill down the street.  Zane was very well-behaved, and he continued to try things like french fries and ketchup at dinner.

One of my favorite parts of the day is bath time.  His excitement and joy is contagious.  I love how good he feels and how happy he gets when he's clean.  He loves to be held, have lotion put on, and play on the bed before he gets his bottle and goes to bed.  These moments are priceless, and I want to keep them forever.

When Mark and I sit back and think of the man Zane will become and the possibilities for his future, we are overwhelmed with hope, gratitude, and love.  While we don't understand everything in this process of adoption, and while we can get focused on the frustrating bureaucratic methods, we know that this is time together that we will never have again - focused bonding time with our little boy who will grow faster than we know.  No matter where in the world we are, we are family, and we are home when we are together.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 48 - U.S. Embassy

This morning we received two emails from the US Embassy about our case.  One, we need another document that will be provided by Zane's orphanage Monday morning.  Two, they want to interview Zane's birthmother who lives about 10 hours away.  The agency is working to have her here on Monday afternoon; however, embassy says they will not interview her until Sept. 6th.  Mark and I are struggling to understand why the United States would want to interview Zane's birthmother after she has been interviewed in this process four times already.  Please pray for the US Embassy and the people who work there.  Pray they remember that these case numbers represent children's lives, their health, their families, etc.  Pray for compassionate people to be present on Monday and agree to interview the birthmom earlier than they told us they would.

We are totally out of control in this situation and frankly, a bit disillusioned by our government institution that should be advocating for us.  But God is over governments and we know he is fighting for us in ways we don't even know yet.  Please pray for God's deliverance to come quickly!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 47 - Families Stick Together

"Families Stick Together" is a phrase I read in Karen Purvis's Connected Child on adopted children.  Parents say it to reinforce to their adopted child that strangers are in fact STRANGE, as in stay away from them.  Where many parents of biological children are teaching their toddler how to be friendly and share, adoptive parents are doing the opposite.  Not because we are exclusive, possessive freaks who want our children all to ourselves, but because our children do not have the "caution sign" or "red flag" or "safe zone" that most well-adapted bio children have.  This can lead to very awkward moments between children and adults, and even adults with one another.

Mark and I decided to make today a day about reinforcing family bonds.  We tried to stay away from other people as much as possible (which is really impossible at a guest house - key word is "tried.")  For the most part, we were together and interacting with one another all day.  We played a few impromptu games like, "Where's mommy?" where I hid my face and surprised Zane with "Here I Am!"  We also played "Go Get Daddy/Mommy!" outside where one of us holds are arms out wide and the other one says to him, "Go get Daddy/Mommy" as we lead Zane to the other parent.  Mark also came to me many times and "love Mommy" while hugging and kissing me, compelling Zane to join him.  We also played "Kiss Daddy/Mommy" making an elaborate kissing noise that makes Zane laugh.  Zane hums with his lips puckered up and kisses us with a loud smack.  When I need to change Zane's diaper or feed him, Mark now picks him up, hands him to me, and says "Go to Mommy!"  This has been great for two reasons:  it reinforces who I am, Mommy, and it keeps Zane from feeling like he's being "snatched" away from something he wants to do.  We realized taking him abruptly away from something is a HIGH anxiety move.  He needs to be gently coaxed or made aware of a change before it happens.  This is something totally normal for adopted children to experience.

A few times today, Zane said Mommy or Momma, which has not happened consistently yet.  In fact, Zane says Emmie for Mommy a lot and he's been using the word to call out to most white women he wants attention from.  Like the word "Daddy", he has not learned that Mommy is an exclusive word for a very close relationship.  People who want to be friendly to children look at this as a cute, endearing thing for a child to do.  It strokes any woman's ego for a cute baby to call for them, reach out to them, or love on them; however, when women reach back for him, hold him, or love on him, they reinforce that Mommy is not a sole person responsible for my nurture and protection.  Mommy is anyone who will pay attention to me.

An AWAA friend, Brandon Hatmaker, put it perfectly when he was here picking up his son Ben last week.  He said, "I don't want my daughter to be 16 and unable to be without a boyfriend because she is still desperately trying to fill the place I, her Dad, should fill."  My heart breaks when I think about the possibility of raising a child with all your will power, yet never getting that it's about attachment and bonding.  A mom and a dad can be present, loving, and attentive, yet when there is a place in a child's soul full of fear, isolation, and rejection, they can completely not receive the love being shown to them.  I too do not want Zane to grow up with the insecurity many orphans have that they must fight for themselves in this world, they must get there needs met by whatever means necessary, and then search for love in all the wrong places!

This is why Mark and I are convinced that a period of "nesting" is absolutely vital right now in Ethiopia with our son in a somewhat familiar environment.  In addition, we are becoming more and more aware of the need for a period of solitude when we return home.  This is so uncomfortable for us because we are so social, excited to see family and friends, and eager to return to our lives back home, but the investment we pay in Zane's emotional health now will save us a lot of tragedy later.  While Zane is healthy and seems to be happy, there is a deep emotional and spiritual battle waging in him, as it does in all of us, for security, protection, and family.

While Mark and I will try not to be rude, stand-offish, or offensive in our attempt to nurture the bonding taking place between Zane and the two of us, we will reserve affection to be displayed toward us alone initially.  Hugging, kissing, cuddling, holding, and the provision of all needs, such as food, water, shelter, and getting dressed will be benefits we have as being Zane's parents.  We will ask friends and family to remain loving and friendly, but somewhat distant at first in affection and provisions.  For example, Zane may run to a family member after falling and scraping his knee.  We would like for that family member to point to Mommy or Daddy, or hand him directly to us to comfort him.  Another example might be when Zane is giggling and playing hide and seek, he may run to a friend to hide behind their legs.  This would be a good time to step aside and allow Mommy and Daddy to "protect" him or "shelter" him from the "play bad guy".

We are so thankful to have the advice of Karen Purvis and other child specialists who have taught us so much about what little things like the events mentioned above can do to promote attachment.  It is a small sacrifice at the beginning of an adopted child's relationship with the parents that makes a huge impact on their life long-term.  We are also so thankful for family and friends who pray for our family and understand the monumental endeavor we are undergoing to build trusting bonds with our child.  Your prayers are being answered and we see that every day.  The breakthroughs we've had just today, after a difficult day yesterday, have proven that God is listening and acting in our midst as you pray.  The best possible way you can minister to our hearts and our family's wholeness is to go before God's throne and ask Him for his wisdom, mercy, and love to be ever present in our minds and hearts.  We thank you so much that you are already praying for that.

We love you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 46 - Mark's Birthday!

Today is Mark's 32 birthday, and I'm so glad we get to spend it with him.  We woke up at 4:30 this morning to Zane crying "Happy Birthday" in his best "singing" voice!  How thoughtful!  Thankfully he went back to sleep and we all slept until about 8:00.  Best gift ever!  We woke up and did our normal routine of getting dressed and eating breakfast together, then we headed out for a walk and to run errands.  On the way back, we enjoyed m34RR4achiattos and sambusa (like an empanada or meat pie).  We all napped for a couple of hours and then went to the Addis Lion Zoo.  It's a cool park where they have black mane lions (like Scar from The Lion King), primates, and some interesting birds, like Egyptian geese.  It's not a very big park, but it was good to get out and do something.  We also enjoyed visiting with the Browns who went along with us with their son, Colton.

Having Mark here has been great company for me, and it's been a load of fun for Zane to have his "celebrity" Daddy here.  He still looks at the iPAD, then looks at him, and asks, "Daddy?"  For all he knows Daddy is a movie star.

It has been a huge transition to have Mark here.  Every new component that is added to Zane's life is so incredibly overwhelming to him.  We have read tons of books on attachment, connecting with children at-risk or sensory deficient, and we are seeing the need to review that information and recall what we learned.  Zane is hyper-vigilant with sensory input, and we're realizing how important it is to be alone, interacting together, and eliminating all distracting components.  Melt-downs have become pretty common in the last couple of days, so we could use your prayers for wisdom and strength to parent him the way God would have us to.

Zane needs so much.  His life experience has left him a little insecure about adults, and his new parents look very similar to other white families that are in and out of the guest house.  This creates a lot of confusion and a lot of heartache for us as we see him going indiscriminately to other parents.  Please pray that God will help him understand that families stick together, and that he can be secure and at peace with us.  Pray also for his heart to stop racing so much, and for him to trust us enough to love and protect him.  His hypervigilance is causing some anxiety that is evident to us, as he cries about common things like sitting to eat dinner.

I have heard that it is common for children from hard places to make a lot of progress then seem to regress suddenly.  I am confident that the Lord is healing his heart and making him whole.  Pray for us that we can minister to him the way the Lord wants us to.  Ultimately, God is his Father, Healer, Protector, Provider, and His Everything.  We just want to reflect that to Zane, so he finds his significant and worth in the God who made him.

On another note, we have not heard from the embassy yet, but we are confident that God is in control and working all things together for good for us.  Please pray that anyone who would seek to keep these children captive and away from their families would be dismissed from the embassy, and that anyone who wants to make a name for themselves would be thwarted.  Adoption is God's business, and He alone should receive all the glory.

We are thankful that God has us together working through issues that are inevitable in adoption.  We hope that this time together in Ethiopia will prepare us for a smoother transition when we return to the states.

Thank you again for your prayers!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 44-45 - Daddy's Here!!

Mark arrived right on time yesterday morning to have breakfast at the guest house and go to church with us!  It is such a comfort to have him here.  We came home from church to take naps and play outside a little while before heading to dinner.

Ironically, I have two friends from high school here in Addis Ababa right now.  Casey Picker and his wife, MaryBeth, were here this week with a mission team working on a school south of the city.  Allen Brewer and his wife Katie, just moved to Addis to teach in the International School here in the old airport area.  It's crazy to be here at the same time all for different reasons.  We met up last night at Yod Abyssina for traditional dinner and dancing.  Zane did great.  He watched the dancers, behaved himself, and allowed mom and dad to visit with their friends.  He's able to adjust his schedule and stay pretty much on track the next day.  I did have to wake up with him a couple of times, but that's to be expected since we kept him out late.

Today, Mark and I are praying and waiting for the embassy to clear us so we can get an appointment this week.  There are two other couples from our agency who arrived this weekend to petition the embassy.  Please pray for all of us as we wait that God would give us wisdom in what we should do (or not do) while we are here.  Pray also that the embassy would continue to have adoption appointments even though they claimed they would not for two weeks.

We are trying to enjoy the time here as a family while we wait.  We will try to have an outing each day, and we are making the best of it.  We thank the Lord that we are together, and we hope for a progress-filled week with embassy!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 43 - A Few Updates

With all the prayers for embassy, I haven't been doing a good job keeping you up-to-date with Zane.

Zane is a very picky eater.  He is not into ANY table food really, except saltine crackers.  Occasionally, he will eat a bite of toast, but not every day.  He's got to be in the mood for it.  I have had to go to the supermarket here twice and stock up on the only baby foods he seems to like:  wheat cereal and rice with vegetable cereal.  Sounds great, right?!  If he does not eat what he likes, there is usually a melt down.  I never EVER thought I would have a picky eater!  I eat just about anything!  So, this has obviously been an adjustment.  I think we're in a good routine now though.  

Zane has been opening up and trusting me more and more.  He will try foods that he never would've eaten before.  Granted, he hates them, but he's trying them now.  He tried a french fry, rice, and a few other things that I thought he'd never eat!  Surprisingly, the kid does not like icecream.  Sure do wish that was the case for me!

Zane continues to LOVE bath time more now than ever before.  He's so excited to get in the bath that he has the open-mouth smile you see in Day 41's post, and he shakes his head with glee!  It's hilarious.  I'm trying to keep bathtime about the same amount of time each night, so he doesn't freak out when I take him away from the bath.  He's learning that he gets to do this routine every night, so he's very pleased.

Zane is  obsessed with shoes.  He loves to have them on because that usually means we get to go outside.  However, he'll wear them 24/7 if I let him, to bed and all.

Zane loves to bark like a dog.  Whenever he hears one, he pretends he's a dog too.  I really hope this means he will like Gracie and Callie.  And I hope they're not too overwhelming when he comes home!

Zane thinks birds are fascinating.  He notices them far in the distance and points.  He says something like "meow" when he sees them, so I think we're still a little confused.  We're working on animal identification.

Zane thrives on a scheduled routine.  We are totally flexible with the clock, but not with the routine.  He's been sleeping during every nap because I kept it at the same time as the transition home.  The past three nights he has slept through the night with no problems because I adjusted his eating schedule by 30 minutes.  It's amazing how much security and trust a schedule has brought him.  The great thing about it is that as long as I'm prepared for eating time and nap time, I can go and do just about anything and he will eat/sleep wherever!  Great!

Daddy is coming to see us tomorrow morning.  We are soooooo excited.  Zane has no idea, but I think he's going to think a celebrity has come to visit.  We watch videos of Mark every day and he kisses the iPad.  

Please pray we get an embassy appointment next week.  We need God to open the doors for us and let us through.  The embassy is not doing any adoption visas for two weeks starting Aug. 25th.  Pray that our Sovereign God leads peoples' hearts to give us one anyway!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 41...Again

Okay, I know I already posted today, but I have to tell you about our afternoon!
Zane has long, curly hair, as you know from the pictures.  He is so obviously a boy, with his blue jeans and blue shirts and tennis shoes...HOWEVER, that means nothing in Ethiopia. He's been called a girl a few times and today I realized his hair was getting long enough to braid.  Fine, if it coils up and lies flat on his head.  Not fine if it frizzes into a poof in 4 spots on his head.
So we ventured to the barber across the street from the guest house and decided it was time for a trim.  Well, a trim in Ethiopia is a full on shave.  It is not in style here for boys to wear their hair long.  In fact, he wanted to know if he could keep a curly tail in the back for "fashion".  That lets you know how the communication was going!  Anyway, by the time Zane was done...he was ready to enlist in the FIGHTIN' TEXAS AGGIE CORPS OF CADETS!  WHOOP!

Here's some pics of our new little Aggie stud:

 "Farmers Fight!  Farmers Fight! Fight!  Fight!  Farmers Farmers Fight!"
New Aggie Running Back
 "Texas!  Texas!  AMC!"
Aftergame cool down...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 41 - Needing Another Miracle

We received an email yesterday that was very discouraging.  As you know, we are praying for remarkable timing with our embassy clearance, and the likelihood that this will happen is very slim.  Nevertheless, we need to be available if an appointment does come available, so Mark is traveling here in faith that we will be cleared to go home before the 25th when embassy appointments do not seem to be available.  It is very difficult to believe that God can do this for us when it really seems impossible.  We need God to show Himself mighty again on our behalf, and we need your prayers for another miracle.

Pray for the person reviewing our file at embassy that they would be passionate about reviewing it quickly and have favor on our case.

Pray for us to have increased faith that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.

Pray that God will be glorified through the miracles He is performing on our behalf.

Pray that the embassy would have an appointment available and reserved by God just for us next week or even into the week it appears there may be no appointments available.  We need God to make it happen.

Pray for Mark as he is missing work.  Pray his team is understanding and that Mark can do what he needs to do for work from Ethiopia.  Pray especially that he can return to work quickly, so he does not take up all vacation time.

Pray that God will give us peace as He fights for us.

Thank you all for the prayers.  We know our God is able.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 39 - Calling All Prayer Warriors

Today we got an email from our agency saying that our paperwork would most likely be submitted tomorrow morning.  That is a big step in coming home; however, this is where the prayer requests begin...

The embassy apparently has no appointments available for Aug. 25th - Sept. 2nd.  Usually they spend about 10 days reviewing paperwork and then they'll let you know they need additional paperwork and/or they are doing a full investigation on your case.  If our paperwork is submitted tomorrow,  this leaves them very little time to review our case and no time for additional paperwork or investigations before having to wait another two weeks for an appointment.

Mark and I are praying and planning for God to move in a huge way this week.  We need you all to pray that the embassy would have favor on us, that all paperwork would be clearly there, and that there would be no need for further investigation into Zane's case.  We also need for you to pray that the embassy would prioritize our paperwork and would allow us an appointment before the 24th.  This would allow us to have an appointment before the two week period of no availability.

Mark and I appreciate your faithful prayers.  We desire to be together at home as a family so badly, and we trust that God will show us His glory.

For all of you adopting or considering adoption, please read the post below from Together For Adoption.  It really blessed me to know our suffering is not in vain.  I hope it encourages you like it did me.

From www.togetherforadoption.org - 

No Such Thing as Adoption without Suffering

BY DAN CRUVERPublished Jun 6, 2011
Romanticizing adoption is so very easy and tempting to do.
But adoption always involves suffering. Just ask any birthmother or a child who is one of three hundred orphans in a Chinese orphanage or an adoptive couple who has lived with infertility for years or an adoptive couple who is experiencing the high-ups and low-downs of the adoption process. Sometimes the suffering is deeply intense and ongoing—like that of an orphan languishing each day in a nightmarish orphanage—while other times it’s the heavy heart of the couple waiting to bring their child home. There is no such thing as adoption without suffering.
The same thing is true of our adoption by God. The adoption to which we were predestined (Eph. 1:5) could not have happened without Jesus redeeming us “through his blood” (Eph. 1:7). There is no such thing as being adopted into God’s family apart from the suffering of Jesus. Jesus cried “Abba! beach-beckoning-through-open-window-photographic-print-c12032573Father!” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36) so that we could become sons of God who cry “Abba! Father!” by the Spirit (Rom. 8:15). Our adoption necessarily involved suffering—infinite suffering.
I love windows. They allow me to sit in a small “world” (my home, for example) and look out into a big world. Through windows we can see beautiful beaches, lush green meadows, and towering snowcapped mountains.
I once sat in a small room in China looking out through a window that allowed me to see a beautiful mountain vista. I was very thankful for that window because the room I sat in was hot, humid, and confining. The window allowed me to see a “world” that I would not have seen otherwise; and it opened up for me an experience of joy that my little room could have never given me. But in order to look through that window I had to sit in a room of uncomfortable and sometimes suffocating humidity.
Our suffering now as the children of God is a window that provides us with the opportunity to get glimpses of a world more beautiful and more wonderful than can be imagined. Paul writes, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). You don’t groan unless you are suffering. Happy people don’t groan. Suffering people do. Orphans groan. Birthmothers groan. Adoptive families groan. A broken world groans.
But with the eyes of faith suffering people who have been given the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15) can look through the window of their suffering into a future world where all things are made new. Because of the gospel, our window of suffering provides us with the opportunity to get glimpses (with the eyes of faith) of a future world that “will be set free from its bondage to corruption,” a world that will “obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
Yes, we still suffer, but we do not suffer as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14). Because of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit of adoption, God turns our suffering into a window that allows the eyes of faith to get glimpses of what will one day be.
Though there is no such thing as adoption without suffering, for the Christian there is also no such thing as adoption without glory and unspeakable joy. Right now we live in “the sufferings of this present time” (Rom. 8:18), but there is coming a day when all who have been adopted by God through the suffering of Jesus will “be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17). We will one day share in the glory of the resurrected Jesus. This means that the day is coming when everything sad will come untrue (Yes, Sam, everything sad will come untrue). This is the good news of the gospel. This is the hope that moves us forward in “the sufferings of this present time.”
So, whatever kind of suffering you are being confronted with in the adoption of a child (whether you are the birthmother, child, or adoptive parent), don’t lose sight of the gospel. Only the gospel can fill you with fresh hope, endurance, and, yes, even joy in the midst of your heartache now. Your adoption by God has profound relevance for the adoption of a child (and all the suffering involved in it).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 36 - Dancing

There is a lot I want to share about today!  It started out rocky, as Zane was up at 1:00 am hungry.  It was quickly resolved with a bottle though.  The Wests were heading out at about 10 this morning to go to the famous, largest African market here in Ethiopia.  The first day I was here, an adoptive mom with AWAA was mugged there with her son and daughter present.  It was scary to me to think of going, but today, I was so desparate to get out and do something that I didn't care about the risks.  I took a diaper bag full of snacks, bottle, games, and books and my Ergo to keep Zane occupied.  He was fabulous!  The entire time, he just looked around at all the sites, and he was very patient.  Wow!  What a blessing.  The market was PACKED with people.  It's Saturday, and its one of the only sunny days we've had this week.  It is CRAZY, but definitely worth saying I've been.

After the market, we took a quick stop by the best coffee shop ToMoca to get coffee (mine was a machiatto) and post office area to get scarves (for the Wests friends and family).  Today is Yonas's birthday, so we were fortunate to have him along with us!  We had lunch at the Passion Burger (What a name!?) and went back to the guest house for Dance Party Ethiopia!  In the background, you will here What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  This was our devotional song of the day, and the words ministered to me so much (again).  Thank God for the people who write hymns and praise songs.  They are life to me sometimes!

The words of the song are:

Here's our first dance as mother and son.  Zane is leading, obviously.  He's such a gentleman!  :)

Click here to see the video:


Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 35 - Good Day

I prayed last night that God would help me wake up with joy this morning, and he did.  I didn't have the anxiety in my heart that I've been having for the past week.  There is a spirit of oppression looming over me, ready to steal my joy and my peace every second.  I feel the battle raging around me between Satan and the Most High God as I learn to care for this little boy.  I have heard many times people in the Christian adoption community say that adoption opens doors to ruthless spiritual warfare.  There is an Evil One who would love nothing more for generations of children to grow up neglected, emotionally closed off, and afraid.  Whether the child is an orphan or not, children are a target of the enemy because he knows his time is short.  Adoption is a clear earthly picture though, of what we have in Christ.  We, separated from God because of sin, have been grafted into his family through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Who gets this better than an adopted child?  An orphan, separated from his family because of earthly circumstances, has been grafted into a family through the (meager but similar) sacrifice of parents.  On top of that, we are bringing a child into a Christian home where he will be taught the love of Christ and prayed for continually.  The power of God will be in our home and evident to him, so Satan is not happy.

I went to the terrace early this morning with Zane strapped to me by an Ergo.  We walked the four corners of the terrace looking out onto the city, and it seemed so peaceful.  Looking down from up above gives you new perspective and new hope.  I prayed aloud for my heart, as I am grieving tremendously the absence of my husband.  I asked the Lord to remind me once again of the lesson he has taught me my entire life, in every season, that He alone is enough.  I prayed aloud over every fruit of the Holy Spirit to be alive and not quenched in my soul.  I asked for LOVE to abound in my heart, that I may see everyone and every situation as God sees them, for he IS love.  I asked for JOY to fill my soul because it is already mine in the Holy Spirit that God says lives within me.  I prayed for PEACE of mind to know that God is over government, authority, and all adoption legalities.  I asked God for PATIENCE to see what God is doing in and around me, and help me understand why I must wait.  I prayed for KINDNESS to exude from my mouth and my heart, so that all I come in contact with would see Him.  I prayed for GOODNESS to be my motivation for giving my time and my energy to Zane each minute.  I asked for FAITHFULNESS to fight the good fight, and win the race; to stay true to the calling he has given me in this season of my life.  I asked for GENTLENESS to be on my face and in my heart as I speak to Zane and teach him what love is.  I prayed for SELF-CONTROL to remember that my first calling is not to my husband, to adoption, to Zane, or America.  My calling is to Him alone.  He is all that I ever have or ever will need.  Oh that I could always find satisfaction in God alone.  My hope comes from Him.  He alone is my light and my salvation.  He is my fortress; I will NEVER be shaken.  

This time with God, plus the devotional time Zane and I are spending together each morning, set my eyes and my heart on God alone.  Thankfully, I invested in book called 100 Ways to Know God Loves Me from Target's online site.  Every day, it has a verse, a story that relates to children, and a song to sing along with the devotional.  Zane loves the songs, and I don't know if he's listening to the devotional at all, but God's word is going forth.  The titles have been perfect:  I Know God Loves Me Because...He gave me a family, He gave me a home, He gave me friends, etc.  For me, it reminds me of all the things I have to be thankful for, and the many blessings God has given me.  My purpose, no matter where I am is to know Him and make Him known.  Lord, let it be.  I pray He reveals Himself to me, and He shows Himself faithful and true to others at all times.  

Zane was on schedule the rest of the day, played well, had a lot of fun with Mommy, and ate well too!  I am so thankful that God reminded me that he is good, he gives us rest, and he fills our hearts with joy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 34 - Things I Am Thankful For

Today I need to recount all of the blessings God has given me in this season.  So here it goes...

1.  I am so encouraged by the loving and compassionate people who have commented on my blog, especially on Day 33.  It is good to know that God has given so many of us shared experiences to mutually encourage one another.

2.  I am thankful that  Zane is in a good mood right now and feeling playful.

3.  I am thankful that the Wests passed embassy today and are able to take their sick son to the states on the next flight they can get.

4.  I am thankful that I don't have to be perfect because God's strength is made perfect in my weakness.

5.  I am thankful that the Brannans will be together soon, in God's perfect timing.

6.  I am thankful that God is not finished with me, and that he is teaching me through this season, as he does in each season of my life.  Refinement is hard, but I pray that I come forth as pure gold.

7.  I am thankful for the Yebsabi staff who asks me if I'm okay, and if I need anything.  I'm also thankful for Job, Yonas, and David who FB me and offer to do anything I need.

8.  I am thankful for David, the chef here at the Yebsabi, who makes delicious dinners and his staff who is so friendly to Zane and me.

9.  I am thankful that God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.

10.  I am thankful that Becca and Sarah West are playing with Zane right now as I type this.

11.  I am thankful for Tim Dreyfus who consistently sends encouragement almost every day to Mark and I.

12.  I am thankful for my mom who gave up so much time and energy to be here with me for two weeks.

13.  I am thankful for my mother-in-law who encourages me on FB every day.

14.  I am thankful for my husband who has incredible wisdom, encouragement, and faithfulness.

15.  I am thankful that Zane has a Daddy who is funny, strong, and so loving.

16.  I am thankful for Coreena, who is here for the forth time to see her daughter who cannot come home yet.  I'm blessed by her strength, positivity, and fellowship.

17.  I am thankful for lessons I'm learning, like to not be too task oriented, and to take time for the "non-productive" stuff that matters most.

18.  I am thankful for the fellowship I have with other adoptive parents through AWAA, and their strength and encouragement.

19.  I am thankful for my church family back home who is praying continually for us, and strengthening me with encouragement even this far away.

20.  I am thankful that Zane is a healthy, lovable boy who is showing so much growth and potential.

I could go on and on, but I am most overwhelmingly thankful for the prayers of all the saints who have lifted us up to the father, and asked that He show his presence to us in a mighty way.  My heart is so full of gratitude for you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 33 - Clinic

Today, Zane and I had planned to hang out at the guest house all day and try to work on his schedule.  HA!  That didn't happen!  We got a call at 9:00 a.m. saying that we needed to be at a clinic nearby at 10:00 a.m.  We had to get ready, call a taxi, and try to determine how long we were going to be there.  The embassy requires that all kids have another physical exam before being submitted for embassy clearance.  That means another step has been completed today.  I am praying that we are submitted to embassy tomorrow.  After submission, it takes 7-10 days for the embassy to go through all of your paperwork.  Then they decide if they need to do a special investigation into your case or not.  PLEASE PRAY WITH ME THAT EMBASSY WILL NOT DECIDE TO DO AN ADDITIONAL INVESTIGATION.

In Ethiopia, adoptions are final when the judge declares you have passed court.  However, the U.S. embassy must look into your case before coming home.  There is a woman I met today who has passed court (in January), but the embassy is still investigating her case.  In fact, she said it is now in Washington D.C.  This type of bureaucracy is so difficult for the children and parents who are apart.  I'm praying we do not get stuck in a situation like this.

Zane is still sick with an ear, nose, and throat infection.  His medicine is giving him diarrea.  Please pray for both of us.  I'm about to go insane with "clean-ups" and Zane cries constantly.  On top of that, I looked in his mouth today and he has two molars that are coming in.  Hence, more crying, ear ache, etc.  Pray that God will give him comfort and peace, and me the strength and wisdom to know what to do.

I feel very blessed that the Wests are still here.  Her sister arrived from the US today and she is a doctor.  Been asking her a lot of questions and feeling a little better about the situation with Zane.

Thank you for the words of encouragement you have been sending me on FB and on the comments section of this blog.  I am teary-eyed when I read them because I need them so badly.  I have no idea what I'm doing and I feel very homesick.  Your encouragement is vital to me, and I appreciate you allowing God to speak through you to me.

Praying in faith that we will be cleared to come home in approximately one week...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 32 - Good News!

This morning Zane and I went to see the doctor at the transition home.  Turns out he has an ear, nose, throat infection, and we got him antibiotics to help with that.  The pharmacy is right by the guest house!  And, there is a market that has formula across the street.  That makes me feel so comfortable!  We came back to the guest house to rest after a long morning of goodbyes at the transition home, and Job called at 1:49 pm.  Our paperwork for embassy is ready and we are making a trip to immigration this afternoon!  What does this mean?  I HAVE NO IDEA!  But it's one step closer to being cleared to come home!  Yea!  Pray for Zane to feel better.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 30 - Feeling Refreshed!

I want to first thank you for the encouraging emails, FB messages, and blog comments I have received in the past 20 hours.  You're prayers are so important to me.  The Lord is answering them everyday, and I want you all to know that He is being so faithful and so evident to me as you are praying for me.

After my last blog post, Mom and I fell on some pretty hard hours.  As you know, things were already hard, so you can imagine our response.  The mouse situation got worse, and we got more and more tired.  Bad combo.  This mouse, which we actually think was maybe 3 mice unless the mouse is Houdini himself, got braver by the minute.  I was already stressed knowing that we had a mouse somewhere in the house, but as the hours ticked on, we saw the mouse (mice) every 10 minutes or so scurry across the floor to another hiding spot.  Obviously, Mom and I aren't going to bed with the mouse (mice) running around between every room.  We finally had the idea to block the mouse in the kitchen with luggage and set a trap in the kitchen the next day.  That way, we could at least know that the bedrooms were safe.  As I'm finishing a conversation with Mark about cornering the mouse in the kitchen, Mom runs into the living area with Zane in her arms sound asleep.  She calmly, in her very controlled, motherly way says, "It was in the bed with Zane."  What??????  Okay.  Clearly, sleeping was out of the question.  It was too late at that point to hire a driver to come get us, and the neighbors had already been over to try to catch it.  There was little we could do at 11:15 at night, so we came up with a plan.  We would make a pallet for Zane on the kitchen table (no place for mice to burrow) and sit on either side of him watching the area on shifts.  Mom would sleep a little with her head down on the table while I watched for mice and made sure Zane was not rolling off the table, and I would sleep while Mom did the same.  It was our only choice.  About 3 am, 10 1/2 hours into our battle against the mice, one mouse went crazy.  I hopped up on the chair with Zane in my arms, and mom chased the mouse around the living room, as it scurried all over looking for an escape.  Finally, he neared the door and mom swept him into the hallway out the door into the yard.  There was a sense of relief in our faces, but we were restless about the possibility of others.  We continued with our plan.

I think it was about 4 am when the Lord brought to mind a verse I have studied in the past.  Psalm 130:6 "My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning."  I totally get it now.  If I had been a watchmen in a tower on a city wall last night waiting for any enemies who might approach, I would have FAILED.  It was torturous having all of that anxiety in me, the desire to keep watch over Zane all night, and the physical strength of a peanut to do so.  When the Psalmist says that his soul waits on the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, this is huge.  When you have stayed up all night waiting for morning, you are waiting with eagerness and expectation that the morning will come.  Your not falling asleep on the job because you may lose it!  Your focused, controlled, and confident that the morning is on its way, and a time of rest will follow.  Waiting on the Lord that way is to know that the Lord will come, and He will deliver.  He will do what he has promised.  The Psalmist waits with controlled confidence on the God who will come through.

Morning did come, as it always does, and Mom was very sick.  Exhaustion combined with foreign foods had gotten the best of her, and she spent the morning (5 am - 10 am) vomiting and sleeping.  I called a driver (a little desparately at this point) to come pick us up.  We loaded our belongings and headed back for the Yebsabi.  The entire way home, I cried.  I can't exactly say why.  Relief?  Embarrassment?  Exhaustion?  Maybe all three.  When we arrived back here, the staff took me and hugged me with Zane in my arms.  It caused me to burst with emotion.  So much tenderness and love caused the flood gates to pour.  The lady at the front desk called for a nanny to come help me (for free), the manager said, "Don't worry, go sleep."  It's like they knew.  They definitely have a gift of ministry to families.  The nanny took Zane to the playroom on the top floor, played with him and cradled him to sleep for his nap.  Mom and I slept after almost 48 hours of very little sleep.  I knew that I could not see my mom leave to go to the US tonight on 3 hours of sleep and be a good mother to Zane.  Zane was pleasant and content with the nanny, but Zane was very quiet most of the day, which I interpret as fear.  Zane was (and still is) confused and a little traumatized over mama melting down in day 2 of us being together full time, and his environment has changed too much in the past 6 months.  He's scared sometimes.  As I write this, I'm praying over him as he sleeps in his crib.  He yells out "NAY! NAY!" (His way of saying NO! NO!) and whimpers through the night.  I think he has bad dreams, and I know Satan has a lot of material to work with from his past.  Instead of crying, I begin to pray whispering, "Lord, comfort him now in his dreams.  Speak words of peace over him.  Surround him with your angels who sing songs of love to him.  Jesus be a visible friend to him as he sleeps, and as always, be his Father, the Father who has ALWAYS been there for him."  I know the Lord will do this.  He has already said he does this in his word.  But the word says that speaking the name of Jesus causes demons to shutter.  I want Zane to know he can always call upon the name of the Lord and He will be saved from any fear.

Mom left tonight feeling a little better, but very exhausted from sickness.  We were both a little sad at the same time to say goodbye.  Mom has grown so attached to Zane and he to her.  She bravely boarded the van without crying, and said goodbye with strength, as she always does even though she's sobbing inside.  Zane watched the van roll away and he put his thumb in his mouth to comfort himself.  This is yet one more adjustment Zane is having to make, and an opportunity to learn that family always comes back.  He will gradually realize that goodbyes are not forever.

The past two days clearly have not been easy.  But as I reflected this evening on the Lord's work, I realized God had actually given me a great gift.  Time and distance has made it difficult to spend quality time with beloved family members the past 8 years.  My mom and I, who have always been very similar and very close do not get the opportunities to go shopping, have lunch, go to a movie, or just hang out like we used to.  Visits are packed with people to see, events to attend, and errands to run.  The experience we had together, although tough, reminded me what I love about my mom.  She is strong, supportive, and confident, yet she can cry with me, feel my pain, and comfort me like no one else.  She is smart, respectful of boundaries, and the most giving person I know.  She wants me to get sleep, even though she spent the morning vomiting.  She wants me to be reminded that I'm a good mother, even though I know she needed the affirmation as well.  She's helpful, considerate, and always putting others first.  Zane has the best Mimi in the world, and I have the best Mom.  The Lord knew we needed this time together, the three of us, and I am so grateful.

Praise the Lord, we are back on track this evening with a good dinner, rest, and baths.  I made the right decision to return to the Yebsabi and settle here with Zane.  I know the staff here will love him, they will provide help to me, and I can focus on being a new mother to a very sweet boy who needs a mommy very badly.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 29 - The Past Two Days With Zane

We picked up Zane from the transition home.  We will have to return eventually to get all of his medical records, but he is staying with us, which is GREAT!  First order of business was to get a bath; however, his nap was cut short because we went out to lunch with the group.  We decided to delay the bath a little while and let him chill (I use that word lightly) with some friends that are at the guest house this week.  One of Zane's best friends from the transition home is with his parents finally, and they had a blast at the guest house kicking around soccer balls last night and throwing them at each other.  Watching toddlers fumble around with large soccer balls is very amusing.  They mean to be sweet, but it just goes bad sometimes.  They can't quite control their bodies yet.

Last night, as we slept I woke up to every little sound Zane made.  He talks in his sleep, moans, and turns a lot.  I was worried he would wake up scared, so every time I heard him I got up and checked on him.  He never actually woke up during the night, and he slept until about 7 am.

Today, we woke up and packed everything to go to our new guest house.  The property is nice and the house has two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen.  However, we have been chasing around a mouse all day, and I am worn out.  I had a small melt down in the kitchen because this is all a little overwhelming.  I now know why we give dinners to families who have recently had a baby.  Moving location on the second day you have a toddler, and trying to use a butane stove completely overwhelmed me.  I feel like it's difficult to play with him, chase the mouse, and cook dinner all at the same time, especially knowing my mom is leaving tomorrow.

I'm going to bed.  I'm going to try to sleep as well as possible, wake up refreshed, and re-evaluate the situation.  Currently, I'm missing the meals, friendly staff, and AWAA families at the Yebsabi.

I'd appreciate your prayers!
Goodnight.  :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 27 - He's Officially Ours!

The first day we met

The day he officially became ours!  8/3/11

 Already negotiating deals like Daddy

 Walking all by himself!

 His face after he slid down the slide for the first time.

 Sticker Mania!

 Sweet Boy.

 Model in the making....

 I love walking!!

 Tongue discovery day.

 Family Portrait

 The first time he fell asleep in my lap

Family picnic?

Wooha!  (Water!)

I am amazed, humbled, and completely in awe of God's sovereignty over processes, leaders, governments, and the entire world.  This afternoon, we were told that Zane Addisu is officially our son!  Our letter came this morning, and the paperwork was given to the judge for her approval.

This event is inexplicable without considering the Lord's power and grace over all earthly things.  Yesterday MOWCYA was on July 4th letters, and this morning, our letter from a July 13th court date was written.  This is impossible without God answering the prayers of hundreds of you who have been praying for us.  So many of you emailed us with specific prayers you were praying for us.  One prayer that many of you have prayed is that God would put Zane's paperwork on the top of the stack at MOWCYA this morning.  We know that is exactly what he did.  We're amazed and humbled that God has given us favor with the people here and with Addisu's case.

My fear is that in my humanity over time I will begin to rationalize the way this event has worked out, and somehow think it was chance or Addisu just had very good paperwork that was easy to review, or that it was an accident.  Our hearts are so prone to wander from the Lord.  I want to make this blog a "memorial stone", so that I will remember this day, God's apparent work in our lives, and the way He blessed us.  One hymn comes to mind when I think of the events of today.  "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, 
 tune my heart to sing thy grace; 
 streams of mercy, never ceasing, 
 call for songs of loudest praise. 
 Teach me some melodious sonnet, 
 sung by flaming tongues above. 
 Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, 
 mount of thy redeeming love. 

        Here I raise mine Ebenezer; 
 hither by thy help I'm come; 
 and I hope, by thy good pleasure, 
 safely to arrive at home. 
 Jesus sought me when a stranger, 
 wandering from the fold of God; 
 he, to rescue me from danger, 
 interposed his precious blood. 

 O to grace how great a debtor 
 daily I'm constrained to be! 
 Let thy goodness, like a fetter, 
 bind my wandering heart to thee. 
 Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, 
 prone to leave the God I love; 
 here's my heart, O take and seal it, 
 seal it for thy courts above. 

For so long, I had no idea what an Ebenezer was!  And why should I raise it for that matter?  A few years ago a friend from church was leading youth worship at camp.  She explained the Ebenezer so well, and it has stuck with me ever since.  Basically Ebenezer comes from a Hebrew word that means, "stone of help".  An Ebenezer is simply a monumental stone set up to signify the great help that God granted to the Israelites in 1 Samuel 7.  The prophet Samuel and the Israelites found themselves under attack by the Philistines. Fearing for their lives, the Israelites begged Samuel to pray for them in their battle.  Samuel offered a sacrifice to God and prayed for His protection. God listened to Samuel, causing the Philistines to lose the battle and retreat back to their own territory. After the Israelite victory, the Bible records: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12).  In the song, all sing to acknowledge God’s bountiful blessings and help in their lives.

So today, I raise my Ebenezer and say, "Thus far the Lord has helped us."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Days 25 & 26 - Highs and Lows of Adoption

Yesterday was one of the best days I've had since I've been here.  Mom and I had an awesome day with Zane.  He's continually more affectionate and comfortable with us.  Yesterday, I showed him a new video that Daddy sent by email, and he leaned over and kissed the screen, not once but 3 or 4 times.  He continues to say Daddy a lot, and I think he understands who Daddy is.  Each time we watch Daddy on the iPAD though, he wonders where Daddy is hiding, and he ends up fussy and frustrated.  So, we take a walk.  Only, we usually run into a soccer ball or a football somewhere along the way, and Zane says, "Daddy!" again.  I'm so glad he loves his Daddy so much, but we both wish Daddy was here.

Last night, mom and I went with some friends to a traditional Ethiopian dinner.  It was at the same place Mark and I went to when he was here.  Only this time, we had three Ethiopian children, 15 months, 4 years, and 7 years old that made our time so much more exciting!  The 15 month old clapped almost the entire time to the rhythms of the music, and the other two danced their hearts out.  They tried to mimic every move the dancers made, even catching the attention of the dancers several times.  They were asked to come on stage and perform with the dancers, and they did so with complete abandonment.  It was AWESOME!  The music was winding down and the dancers were about to leave the stage, when one of the dancers asked me to go on stage....again.  I had to go up twice last time Mark and I were there, and I almost thought I was off the hook until the best dancer on the stage asked me to go up there and mimic his moves.  Oh my goodness.  I was (and still am) so EMBARRASSED!  This white girl cannot move like these professional Ethiopian dancers can, let's just say that.

After a late night, Mom and I woke up sleepy, but we enjoyed our morning with Zane.  He was as sweet as ever and enjoyed watching the rain on the covered porch.  We read books and visited with other children that were there with us.  Like clockwork, at about 11:55, Zane fell asleep (while eating) in my arms.  This has become our daily routine, and I enjoy it so much.  At 12:30, I handed him over to the nanny to be put in bed, and Mom and I went to Metro Pizza with the other families here.  In the afternoon, we went back to spend more time with Zane, and watch the Rowell's pick up their little boy, Muse' from the toddler room where Zane lives.  Muse' and Zane are good friends, so it was good to see him with his family.

As we arrived back at the Guest House tonight, I hurried to check my email to see the updates from AWAA on the MOWCYA letters.  The email I received informed families waiting for court that MOWCYA was working on July 4th court appointments today and that it did not look like they would get much further than that by the end of the week.  I don't know what to feel about this.  On one hand, I'm miserable, depressed, and so sad at the prospect that I may either be here without Mark for another 3 months or have to leave Zane and not see him for 2 months.  On the other hand, I know that God could put that letter at the top of the stack tomorrow and we would pass court this week.  I have no idea how to prepare for the future right now, and I'm pleading with the Lord to let me have custody of Zane this week.  Please pray for me as I wait the and watch for the Lord to show me the best path right now.  Pray that I would have peace and clarity about the decision I may have to make about staying here or returning home.  Any insights would be much appreciated.