21 October 2014

Where Things Stand

If you saw my status update today on Facebook, you know that I took a bit of a tumble. I singlehandedly tried to move a desk from our basement to our main level.

The desk is not a heavy one, but it is somewhat large. I made it up several stairs, with my 3-year-old boy cheering me on from behind. Just as I neared the landing where the stairs turn, I lost my balance, my legs buckled, and everything started moving in slow motion.

I was falling. The desk was falling. We were both crashing toward my son. I had the presence of mind to tell Jack to move out of the way, and luckily he wasn't hurt. The desk and I did not fare as well.

I saw this pin on Pinterest RIGHT AFTER I fell. #Hilarious
Moral of the story is that some things in life cannot be done by yourself. You need help in order to be successful.


Adoption is the same way. So many of you have come alongside us and helped us and prayed for us. And we are so grateful. So I wanted to let you know where things stand, and how you can continue to pray for us.

Right now there are some crucial things going on here in the USA and in Ethiopia.

First, what's happening in the USA: Our children's papers are being reviewed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Before we can move forward with the adoption, we need their blessing. This process can take 8-12 weeks, and we've been in it for about 4 weeks. According to our agency, the USCIS has been requesting additional paperwork on most cases, and that slows things down considerably. Our agency did everything they could to cross all their t's and dot all their i's, but whether USCIS thinks it's enough to prove the legitimacy of the children's orphan status is debatable. A lot of it depends on the person reviewing the case.

If you are a praying person, we would really appreciate your prayers for a favorable review and no request for additional evidence.


This is also an intense time in Ethiopia. We've been informed that we've been assigned a Guardian Court Date for October 31. We are not required to be at this court appearance; it is for the children's current guardian (the orphanage manager) to state again that they truly are orphans and that they are OK with an international adoption.

But here's the interesting part. Any child being adopted who is 11 or older must also appear in court and state that they want to be adopted.

Our son is 11, so he will also appear.

He and his younger sisters are residing in northern Ethiopia, and federal court is in the capital city. It is not a terribly far distance, but road conditions would make going by car very difficult. So he and his guardian will get up early in the morning, fly to Addis Ababa, where they will be joined by our agency's social worker. They will go to court, and "D" will say whether he wants to be adopted.

I hope he says yes. I think he will, but it is his choice. His sisters have no say in the matter because of their age, and he is very close to them, so even if he has doubts, I think he will want to do it so he can stay with them.

That is pretty big.

But something else pretty big is going to happen on that day as well. Our agency's social worker is going to tell him about us. While he and his sisters know they will be adopted, we don't think they've been told anything about us. At this meeting he will be presented with three photo books we made--one for him, one for his sister L, and one for his sister M. The books contain pictures of our family, our home, and places they will frequent when they live here such as their school, church, downtown area, etc. We also included cards for each child with a personal message.

The social worker will talk through everything with him and explain the books. I don't know if this will occur before he makes his court appearance or after....I'm guessing maybe before so he can be more informed?

I have to be honest. I have that same nervous feeling you get when you're on a first date. I really hope he likes us. It seems silly when I type the words into the computer, but it's how I feel. I want him to like us and want to be a part of our family.

Later that evening, D will fly back to Northern Ethio to his orphanage. He will be given a big responsibility: to share the books with his sisters and explain everything to them.

Will you pray for D on Oct. 31? (No, they don't celebrate Halloween in Ethio, in case you're wondering.) It will be so much information for him to take in. I know as the older brother he feels a certain sense of responsibility for his sisters, and he wants the very best for them. Please pray that everything goes smoothly--from the flight to the meeting with the social worker and, of course, the court appearance. Pray that God will prepare D and his sisters to be a part of a family after a very long time without one. Pray that their young hearts will be flooded with peace and joy.

Someone recently said to me, "I'm sure they will be so happy and so grateful to find out about you!" I hope she is right, but in actuality, change is hard. Change is scary. And some people are resistant to change. It's hard to leave every.single.thing you know and hold dear and venture out to a new beginning. Or at least I imagine it's hard. Actually, I can't imagine it at all. I would be terrified.

But God...

He started this process, and we are confident He will complete it for His glory, for our joy, and for the well being of these three children whom He loves so dearly.


Hopefully we will get some news late in the day on the 31st and be able to share it with you. Until then, please keep praying.

Love to you and yours,
Luann

17 October 2014

Shut Up

So yesterday I was sitting in a coffee shop, trying to do some freelance work, when I noticed a middle-aged man walk in. I did a double take, because he looked slightly familiar to me, but I couldn't quite place him. He eyed me suspiciously as well, and then looked around nervously.

Turns out he was meeting another man--not sure if he was a friend, a mentor, or a pastor of some sort. But the two sat right behind me, so I was privy to quite a bit of their conversation, and it seemed like a confessional of some sort.

Now, before I go any further, let me say that I'm all for accountability and confessing/sharing with friends. But I'm also for listening, and for having a teachable spirit.

Let me explain. Man #1 seemed to do ALL the talking. Or at least all the loud talking. He was telling Man #2 about his marital problems, and how his wife had left him, and what a terrible sinner he was, how merciful God is, and blah, blah, blah, blah.

For nearly an hour, Man #1 verbally puked all over Man #2. It didn't seem like he was seeking advice, since Man #2 barely got a word in edgewise. It was just talk, talk, talk. Excuses, excuses, excuses. My wife never...and My wife won't. But God ... My church ... My bible study... Blah, blah blah.

I am not unfamiliar with this type of man. I know someone else quite well who likes to talk about what a terrible sinner he is and how he messed up his marriage, but he always adds in little digs about his wife, insinuating that a lot of the problems are her fault. And two years counting, he hasn't changed a bit.

So yesterday when I heard this middle-aged, quite respectable looking man, going on and on about how close he was to God but not taking even a second to receive counsel from the man he was with, I wanted to do something.

I wanted to stand up, walk over to his table, grab his shoulders, and shout, "SHUT UP. Quit talking and start doing. Go home to your wife and work on your marriage. Quit talking about God's grace and forgiveness and start reflecting it."

I'm so tired of "Christian" men being unkind to their wives. You stood before God and witnesses and promised to love her, care for her, cherish her, and protect her. And now the person who is supposed to be protecting her is the person she needs protecting from.

When I got up to leave, I took a long look at the man in the denim shirt and the pressed, pleated khakis. He looked at me, too, and I wonder if he knew I was on to him and his sort.

I drove away, thanking God that my husband is kind. Loving, Teachable. And a great listener.

25 September 2014

Black and White

I'm sitting in Starbucks, where I should be working on a freelance project, but am instead staring at three little faces on my computer screen.

Joy and sorrow. Elation and grief. Every adoption is borne in tragedy and loss. A mother dies. A father dies. Children are left without the most basic need: someone to care for them. Someone to love them.

But God. ... He places the lonely in families. He cares for the orphans. He makes beauty from ashes. He turns mourning into dancing.


Today 168 pages of documentation have been sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Fifty-six pages for each child we are adopting...proof that they are indeed orphans. Testimony from witnesses who know their family and can verify their parents are dead and they are in need of care. Birth certificates. Death certificates. Official translations.

Ken and I knew much of the children's history, but there's something about seeing their parent's death certificate in black and white.

A  mother died. I wonder what her final thoughts were. I try not to think about it too much. The thought of it is almost too much for my heart to bear.

But joy... The documentation also includes baby pictures of our three Ethiopian children, pictures I had never seen before. They are black and white, and photocopied on the world's worst photocopy machine. But I see their eyes. I see their little ears and mouths and all the things a mother loves.

Tears of joy, tears of sadness.

The next part of the process usually takes 12 weeks, and then we're getting really close to the Big Day. Twelve weeks from today would be just before Christmas.

I can't think of a better gift.

11 September 2014

Do Over

Great news for all of you who have long abandoned your New Year's resolutions:

Today is a new day, a new year. Time for a Do-Over...if you need one.

In Ethiopia, they follow the Coptic calendar, which celebrates the New Year on Sept. 11.

Today I'm an honorary Ethiopian. Do you want to be one too?

Here's another reason to consider being Ethiopian for a day: In Ethiopia the year is 2007. Seriously. (If you don't believe me, check this out: this.)

So if you woke up stiff and sore this morning...if you're feeling like your age is catching up with you...deduct 7 years from your current age and live accordingly.

Reset your internal clocks, my friends! Melkem Addis Amet! (Happy New Year!)



02 September 2014

01 September 2014

Thoughts on 43

  • A giant piece of carrot cake is the perfect way to end a perfect day.
  • I am so rich in family and friends that even Bill Gates is jealous.
  • Well, he would be if he knew me. But he doesn't. His loss.
  • I've had my share of ups and downs in life, but for the most part, I live a pretty charmed life.
  • A quiet house at the end of a long day is a wonderful gift.
  • I love that I spent the majority of my weekend gluing, cutting, painting...creating. Creating makes me feel joyful.
  • I bet that joyful "I just created something!" feeling is the reason God made so much stuff.
  • Yesterday Jack didn't want to take a nap, but I finally convinced him to lie down on my bed and quietly read books with me. He'd look at a few pages and then turn his head to me, put his face next to mine, smile hugely, and say in a high-pitched voice, "Mom! Your birthday is tomorrow! I'm sooooo excited!"
  • My hubs gave me a dishwasher for my birthday. You know you're a grown up when appliances excite you.
  • 43 is so much better than 13 or 23 or even 33. Probably better than 3 too, but I don't remember that much about 3. Because I'm old.
  • I read this quote today: "There are two great days in a person's life - the day we are born and the day we discover why." -William Barclay
  • I've known the "why" part for a while, but the vision has become more tangible this past year. That makes me happy and excited.
     
    I can't wait to see what next year holds.
     

22 August 2014

Conditions at the Orphanage

Some of you have asked about the orphanage our kids are at. Yesterday I was able to message some other adoptive parents who have children that were at this orphanage, and they gave me some
reassuring information.

From everything they said, the workers are extremely loving, caring for the children as if they were their own. They said there isn't a ton of "stuff," but the children liked the orphanage better than others.

I was told by one of our workers that both Islam and Christianity (Orthodox) were practiced in this area, so the kids might be exposed to both. However, the other parents I communicated with didn't seem to think their children had received any instruction in Islam.

The town where the orphanage is located is small-ish and laid back, especially when compared with the hustle and bustle of the capital city, Addis Ababa. (Legend has it that the Queen of Sheba came from this area of Ethiopia.) The workers are very welcoming and we were told to expect a coffee ceremony (tradition in Ethio as it's the birthplace of coffee), which takes a few hours!

All of this info on the orphanage is relative, of course, because an orphanage is never an ideal condition in which to live. But...some are better than others, and I'm happy our kids are at one of the better ones.

...

We continue to prepare for our church's fall festival, where we will be selling more pendants to raise money for FIVE airplane tickets from Ethiopia to Chicago. Here is another sneak peek at some of the original, one-of-a-kind pieces we'll be selling. There's only one of each, so don't get your heart set on anything! :)

This butterfly and winky-smiley face would be so cute on a little girl, wouldn't they?


Love these two pieces below. I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'll never run a marathon, but if you or someone you love has, the 26.2 would be a nice gift. The one on the left is our "African Sun," but it's made on a rectangular pendant. Isn't it beautiful?

Love these for the kiddos in your life. A great stocking stuffer or back-to-school gift. And the one on the far right...perfect for any classic rock fan..

Owls and snowflakes. So pretty!

And if you are a sports fan, these would make great key chains!


Thanks for stopping by today.

Enjoy your weekend! What are your plans? We don't have anything on the calendar...and that makes me super happy. :)

-Luann