Thursday, December 13, 2012

Heart Attack

I know it might be hard for some to believe, but there was a period of roughly 2 years when I loved to run.  I ran with 2 special people, one friend and one sister.  I have such fond memories of that physically fit time in my life.  We were pretty dedicated and disciplined about getting in 3 solid runs per week.  It seemed that no matter how comfortable we were with the running, it always hurt for the first 5-10 minutes, until we found our pace and our heart had time to catch up with our legs.  It was so tempting every single time, just to slow to a walking pace until the hurt went away, but we always pushed through until it felt like we were on cruise control.  

I feel like that is a great example of what life feels like right now:  the beginning of a run.  There are days it is so incredibly difficult and I just want to hit the easy button.  We are dealing with sick kids who need our constant care and attention and healthy kids who are trying to understand a new language and life outside a 10' x 10' room.  There are a lot of moving parts here and it is not easy trying to figure it all out!

If you have called or texted or emailed and I haven't answered, it's probably because I was wiping a nose, taking someone potty, tying someone's shoes, getting someone a snack, picking up remains of broken goods, or maybe it's because I declined the call altogether.  I know that sounds so rude, and it pains me to admit it, but there are days I just don't have a lot of words for anyone.  My brain feels like mush and my emotions have gone through a wild spectrum from glad to sad to confused to overjoyed (and the list goes on).  To do anything above survive is just not happening right now.  We'll get there, but it might not be soon.  

Many friends have asked what we need.  Here it is:  We need you to forgive us for missed calls, un-returned emails and texts, and general forgetfulness.  We love you all and need you.  We have not forgotten about you and the joy you bring us.  

Today is the first day since Nov. 16 when every person in this house is at school or work or home, where their normal routine would have them be.    On Nov. 17, it seems we went from a comfortable pace of living onto a treadmill paced at 10mph (which is faster than my short legs can carry me).  Please bear with us as our hearts adjust to this new pace and keep calling!   We will answer when we can and we need to know you still love us! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Weight of Glory

Dearest family and friends:

We are home at last with our son.  After years of anticipation and longing, we now hold the son who was placed so heavily on our hearts 3 years ago, before he was even conceived.

The past one month has been a whirlwind of triumphs.  We have known during this wait that our Father was fighting a battle for the life of our Jude Mengistu, but we never knew it would end so gloriously.  Exodus 14:14 tells us that "The Lord will fight for you.  You need only to be still."  On the days our hands were tied, it was comforting to know that the battle continued in our absence:  in His strong hands.  Some days were indescribably painful.  We were shown time and again how weak we are and how strong and mighty He is.  We have been carried by Him through friends and family.  He has been ever-present throughout the fight for our son.  

After waiting so long for even one victory, we had so many in such a short amount of time.  We passed court October 15, and were cleared to travel November 15.  In case you need perspective, it takes most families 3 months to get cleared to travel after passing court.  After being submitted to the US Embassy for Jude's visa, they cleared him in only 2 days, when it usually takes 4 weeks.  What a surprise it was to hear that we could travel!  We packed quickly and got out of the country within 48 hours---not a small miracle.  We could not have done it alone.   Our support system stepped up in a big way.

Since leaving and returning to the US, God has shown so much of His glory in the life of Jude.  Sometimes it is overwhelming.  Like when I'm driving down the road and Jude is right behind me singing a song in his sweet angel voice and I realize it's not my imagination.  And when we rock him to sleep in his room, where we spent countless nights desperately crying out to God to bring our son home.  And when he clings to us and calls us "Momma" and "Pappa."  And when I look at his scars--the places where I did not get to kiss and bandage--and I have no idea what happened in those places, but I know my Father held him then.   Glory.

People:  Time and again I prayed specifically for God to allow Jude to feel a sense of lonely, a longing for a family.  When I say it outloud, it sounds cruel, but I know that He created us for family
(Psalm 68:6--God places the lonely in families.)  Praise God that He placed the lonely in our family 3 years ago, even with the chaos that 3 young children under age 5 brings.  Praise God.

The day we picked Jude up from his orphanage home, he was understandably terrified (in fact, you might say panicked).  I can't tell you with words how much it hurt us to see him so confused.  We watched a terrified little boy over the next 24 hours begin to develop a trust for us that is beyond comprehension and beyond reason.  Only 24 hours after taking him from his home, we were invited back for a Farewell Ceremony for him, where his nannies and former roommates would greet him and hug him.  We were concerned about a set-back with his new-found trust in us.  We would never have believed that he would cling to us and refuse to go to the nannies who fed, bathed, and cared for him since he was 3 months old.  It defies any kind of reason, except that we prayed for this specifically.  We prayed that he would understand quickly that we are his forever and we will love him unconditionally and we will provide him something his orphanage home can't.  God's glory has been all over this quick adjustment.

If you could be a fly on the wall and watch our little boy run and play and kiss and cry here in his home, you would think he'd always lived here.  If he would let you hold him and rock him, you would feel the weight of God's glory resting in your arms, and trust me:  it's heavy.

So humbled by all of this.  So humbled to be the parents of 4 children.  So humbled by the strength of family and friends who have held us up for so long and now rejoice, as if their own child has come home.

If you feel starved for a glimpse of glory today, just take a look at this boy, who has spilled it all over our lives.

Thank you to all of the prayers lifted up to bring Jude home.  We are eternally thankful.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ugly Beautiful

It seems to me that one of the greatest challenges in life is to remain content in all circumstances.   If you can get to that place of contentment, you have found the holy grail.

In the Bible, Paul says he "learned in whatever state I am, to be content.  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound abound and to suffer need."  Phil. 4:11-12

It has been a challenge to remain content and joyful for our family since Oct. 25, 2011.  There have been a few peaks of hope, but mainly just week after week of discontent and discomfort with the lack of movement in our case to bring our boy home.  

I have been reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.  She proposes that it is not only possible to be content in all circumstances, but even joyful.  She is not Mary Poppins.  She is a normal human who has suffered tragic loss and has daily challenges just like you and me.

Her book is about writing down the gifts in your life, literally count the blessings, from one to one thousand.  It's a good practice for everyone, especially those who are having trouble finding their place of contentment and joy.  My family started our list about a month or two ago, and we are on gift #250.  It doesn't take long until you start noticing all the gifts in your life that He has strategically placed around you.

Our gifts are lists of people, things, sights, smells, funny moments, and now we even have an "Ugly Beautiful" list.  Voskamp reveals a few of her "ugly beautiful" gifts in the book and it really stirred me up.  When you start listing those things in your life that drive you crazy or get on your last nerve, and instead praise the Maker for them-----your heart changes.  Instead of complaining about them or feeling guilty that you can't make these ugly beautiful gifts perfect, try being thankful.  I am not Mary Poppins, although I would rather see the cup half full than half empty.  I am a real human with real challenges and flaws and fits of rage from time-to-time, and I'm telling you:  if this changed my perspective, it can change your's.

Here are some of my "ugly beautiful" gifts:

~piles of books on the girls' beds
~laundry 3 inches away from the basket
~hardened toothpaste on the sink and rug and tile
~lights left on in the basement
~crumbs under the table
~full dishwasher
~depleted school lunch accounts
~remnants of petrified food in the van
~noisy mealtime
~stains on shirts
~holes in jeans
~dirt under fingernails
~empty mustard bottle (gotta know Sophie)
~wrinkles around the eyes

The thing I've realized is that these are all signs of life.  If not for life in my house, there would be none of these things.

My girlfriends and I have always said we were going to take a "dirty home" tour of our homes, just so we can all see that none of us lives perfect, tidy lives all the time.  We have to learn that so many of the things we feel guilty about or pressured to change in our lives are the ugly beautiful gifts we have been given.

Our wait for Jude has been an ugly beautiful gift.  To be honest, it has been more ugly than beautiful in our hearts, but I believe there will be beauty in the end.  I don't want the wait to be in vain.  It is not easy to do, but I want to praise God for the wait.  I can't wait until we get to the end of the adoption journey and look back and count the gifts we were given during the wait.  The gifts that wouldn't have been given if we could've just brought him home Day 1.  I pray that he is given gifts he would have otherwise gone without---for his wait.

And, just so you are all aware, only 29 days until the judge looks at his paperwork again.  That's less than one month.  His day is coming.  We are filled up and overflowing with hope.

Looking forward to the gifts I can count once he is home~

And now my life verse:  Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold
And there be no herd in the stalls---
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Court Date: Take 2

The past 2 weeks have been incredibly exciting for our family.  It has been months and months since we've received positive news about movement in Jude's case.

On August 15, Jason got a phone call from our case manager that Jude's regional approval had been finalized.  It is hard to communicate the importance of this event.  We had been waiting 10 months, 42 weeks, for this paperwork.  It's the same paperwork we were supposed to have on Oct. 25, 2011.  And then again on Nov. 4, 2011.  And then a number of promised dates after.  This victory came on the heels of 2 very hard days of bad news and spirited conversations/debates with our agency and other outside sources (3rd party attorneys, private investigators, etc.).  It was overwhelming.  As soon as Jason said, "Sue called.  We got the paperwork," I fell to my knees and sobbed.  It was such a shock and I was blind-sided with a rush of relief and joy.

The last step in finalizing his case is court (again).  Our prayer quickly became, "Lord, let the judge hear his case before the courts close for recess."  Courts close every year in Ethiopia during August and September, reopening in early October.  As of August 15, they were still in session with no indication of a closure date.  While we were hopeful that our case might be heard before the closure, we were hesitant to expect it.  In fact, to even be given a future date on the calendar would be a stretch, as the courts were tying up loose ends.

On Tuesday, August 21, as we drove home from dropping the kids at their first day of school, Jason saw on his phone that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia had died.  This sent us into a whirlwind of questions-about the possible effects this could have on a court date for us, and international adoption in general.  We read news briefings and scanned facebook group pages, attempting to get a realistic perspective on the country's stability and plans to change over power to a new leader.  It appeared from our reading that the courts would shut down as well as any and all other federal offices.  If the courts shut down for this sort of observance, it was likely they would go immediately into their 2 month recess.  We had to accept that we probably wouldn't hear about a court date for Jude until early October.

We already knew families who'd been given court dates of October 24 and later.  It seemed as if our court date would be late October/early November---at the earliest.

On Wednesday morning, August 22, we received an email with news of a court date.  He had been assigned a court date of October 15.  Courts will reopen on October 5, which means Jude's case will be one of the first to be heard.  We do not travel for court this time.

It is a miracle that our request for a court date was granted quite possibly the same day---maybe one business day prior---- as the Prime Minister's death.  He passed away at 11:45PM on Monday night.  We are amazed that it came so close to not happening before the court recess.

We are thankful to have a date to look forward to, in great anticipation.  We know and accept that anything can happen; however, we believe this is Jude's turn.  There will probably be a lot of silence between now and then, and that is fine with us.

48 days until the judge looks at his paperwork again, just 10 days shy of an entire year since our original court appearance.  Thank you for praying through this with us and thank you for your unfailing support and interest in Jude's fate.   

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Not mine

Jason reminded me this week of something I learned a few years ago.

I had heard a small portion of a sermon by Tony Evans on the radio in the car as I was headed to the store one day. I don't usually enjoy listening to Tony Evans, because he is a loud "Give me an 'Amen'!" kind of preacher. He was speaking on the subject of good stewardship.

I remember thinking, "Yea, I've heard all this before. I know, I know. My money isn't really mine. It's all from God; therefore it's all really His."

He did speak about stewarding our money. However, he then introduced the idea that nothing we have is our's. Nothing. Not our brains. Not our time. Not our house. Not our job. Not our health and energy. Not even our kids. They aren't our's to keep and hoard. Whoa. That hit me like a ton of bricks because I'd never thought about it that way. I had always thought, "God has blessed ME with this little life to enjoy and the job of raising up these children in a loving home."

It had never occurred to me that my babies weren't really mine. They are God's children, whom He has entrusted in my care during their time on this fleeting earth. Not only does that give me a tremendous sense of responsibility, but also a sense of freedom. It helps me remember that we're in this together, and that it's not completely up to me to do this perfectly. I can't do it alone.

I chewed on this idea for weeks and it still comes back every now and again when I feel scared or worried about their safety. I have to remind myself almost daily to release them into His hands, because they are His anyway.

This idea has become even more tangible with our fight for Jude. It seems as though God is reminding us through our wait that Jude is not our own. It's a relief that we are not fighting on our own. It's encouraging to know that we are not praying alone.

We believe we are pleading for Jude not only for our family, but for the gigantic family of friends and loved ones who have already decided to love him. We know that you will celebrate with us when he comes home. We are exceedingly happy to share him with you all. I just cannot wait to share his beautiful smile with the world. He is so worth all the blood, sweat, and tears we've shed on his behalf. He is so worth it. And there are millions more just like him, who are SO worth it. Can I get an "Amen!" ?

1 Samuel 1:27-29
For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord, as long as he lives, he shall be lent to the Lord."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hard news

We are in need of love and prayers. We were informed this morning that Ethiopian courts will not be hearing cases Feb. 6-Feb 24 due to staff "training." If our case doesn't pass this week (which we aren't really counting on at this point), then the earliest we'd pass would be March.

We are growing tired of hearing and reporting hard news, so we'd love to have your support. We continue to wait and wonder what He's doing while we wait. I know it will be a great story someday and I'm certain it will bring more glory to Him, but we're ready to tell it and rejoice in his homecoming.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Swarming Locusts

A very special thing happened one year ago today.

In the southern countryside of Ethiopia, a precious baby boy was born. He would have very round, expressive eyes and a beautiful mouth. His sweet little smile would make hearts sing. His laugh would light up a room.

He would live a short while in the countryside before moving into an orphanage without the sight or smell or sound or touch of his mother. He would come to know life inside the walls of an orphanage alongside 8 other babies. He would learn to sit up on the floor of that orphanage. He would learn to crawl on the rugs there. He would hold the hand of his nannies and take his first steps there. He would go through nights of painful teething and bouts of illness with the care of his nannies. He would be hospitalized twice without the comfort and presence of Mommy or Daddy. He would hear a language new to his family line and understand it as his own: Amharic. He would see the face of a white man and hear his deep voice for the first time and CRY for fear. One day he will call that man, "Dad."

A world away, a family would be preparing for his arrival. They would watch from afar each month as he grew and changed. They would record weights and heights, just as they did for their other 3 children. They would pray nightly on their knees for his arrival. They would put together a crib, wash bedding, hang curtains, and paint his room a fresh coat of blue. They would take such pride in him and hang large pictures of him up on their walls. They would attend baby showers where family and friends would pour out their love and support for his arrival. They would pray for him. They would think about him. They would dream about him. They would love him. And they would wait.

The wait would be excruciating. It would probably be harder on the family than on him. He wouldn't clearly remember life before the orphanage. Every day is just another day in his orphanage home.

Today is Jude's first birthday. We are filled with joy over his life. We are exceedingly grateful for the gift of his life and his future. We are celebrating with Taco Tuesday night (the kids' favorite), and birthday cake with ice cream. We will wear silly hats and hang balloons. We will sing "Happy Birthday to You." We will pray and thank God for Jude's life and for the life of his mother.

We will save his special little #1 cake for him in the freezer. He will get it when he comes home. We will save birthday gifts for him. He will open them when he comes home.

A friend referenced Joel 2:25 a while back and it caught my attention loud and clear. Here's some background straight out of my Bible, NIV:

Disaster strikes the southern kingdom of Judah without warning. An ominous black cloud descends upon the land--the dreaded locusts. In a matter of hours, every living green thing has been stripped bare. Joel, God's spokesman during the reign of Joash, seizes this opportunity to proclaim God's message. Although the locust plague has been a terrible judgement for sin, God's future judgements during the day of the Lord will make that plague pale by comparison. In that day, God will destroy His enemies, but BRING UNPARALLELED BLESSING to those who faithfully obey Him.

Joel tells the story of how the land laid waste, and how the people mourned for the land. It speaks of the Day of the Lord and a call to repentance. The part I am especially fond of is chapter 2, starting at verse 18. Go read the whole chapter (or the whole book---it's short).

Here is Joel 2:25-27, emphasis mine:

"So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame."

There will be a day when Jude can have his birthday cake and open his presents. He will be given back his first year of life lived in an orphanage.

Until then, we celebrate with gladness the life that entered this world one year ago today.

Happy birthday, dear Jude! Any many more~

Love, Mommy and Daddy and family

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Waiting for a Status Change

I know by now you are expecting me to be blogging about bringing our baby boy home. Unfortunately I can't blog about that yet. We are still waiting to pass court. Our case is one of the few that are still pending.

As we correspond with our case worker daily now, we are on the roller coaster ride of our lives. It has almost been 3 months since we were supposed to pass court. We are still waiting on one solitary piece of paperwork that the regional officials have the power to push through. On Christmas day, we were told that the officials had indicated that they would be pushing paperwork in the "very" near future (as in a few days). We were certain it would be our Christmas miracle. Certain. So certain that I bought t-shirts that say "Abat" and "Enat," which is "Father" and "Mother" in Jude's mother tongue, Amharic. We were claiming it. Since that week came and went without movement, we have been told that the regional officials "promised" to approve the pending cases 2 weeks ago. Still nothing.

Today, we were told that the officials have begun to process regional paperwork, but that they are starting from the "top down." To clarify, they are starting with the last cases to be submitted. Our's was the very first. That means our's will be dead last. There are no words to describe our frustration at this point. We now understand what it means to fight for the orphan. We have some concrete under our fingernails and we're not finished yet.

We are in a strange limbo-land with our homestudy. Right now it's a gamble whether or not to update it (long story....I won't bore you). It is probably more safe to update than to not, but let me tell you how much we DON't want to. We want to spend that time and money on our son. We want to bring him home so bad we can taste it. It's all we dream about, think about, talk about, pray about. It's maddening.

As I sit here and work on our 3rd set of home study papers, my to-do list is long. I have to get fingerprints scheduled, medical clearance for the entire family, reference questionnaires for family/friends/Evan's teacher delivered in order to be completed, maps printed, employment verification letters, criminal and child abuse checks filed, income tax paperwork, and all this in addition to the pages of questions that still need answered. What kills us is that our lives HAVE NOT changed since 2009, when we started this process. Our home study is essentially the exact carbon copy of what it was in 2010 and 2011. Our status has not changed. Regardless, we have to pay the fees and complete the said paperwork in order to bring Jude home.

We are in anxious anticipation for the day Jude's status changes. His first birthday is one week from today. He will spend it in the orphanage he calls home, with the nannies who love him, but without a mommy or a daddy. He will not know the feel of cake icing between his little fingers nor silly hats and weird noise-makers. He will not know about his family who is celebrating his first birthday without him, an ocean away.

Jason and I have been on our knees more in the last 3 months than ever in our lives. We are crying out to God to change Jude's status. We cleaned out his room this weekend and have been praying through his room for his status to change. Every night we are holding hands as a family and praying for God to bring Jude home soon. We are asking God to show Himself in a big BOLD way in order to change Jude's status from ORPHAN to SON.

Please pray with us, family and friends. We know you are behind us. Thank you for being with us for so long now and for continuing to lift us up. There are days like today that it's not easy. Days like today remind me that sometimes one set of footprints is sufficient. Looking forward to good news soon.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.