13 May 2015

We Have a Plan

Doesn't every obstacle seem easier when a plan is in place?

Well, we have a plan. [big sigh of relief]

We received our negative recommendation today from the Ministry, as expected. Only 1 day after it was supposed to come, so that is good!

Besides the "you don't have one paper and we still need it," they have also requested an updated license from our children's orphanage director.

The director *thinks* it will take between 10-14 days to get his renewed license.

Once this is received, our team in Ethiopia will file our case at Court. We are petitioning the Court to review the case, as is, and to agree to hear our case without a positive recommendation from the Ministry. If that happens, Ken and I will fly to Ethiopia to meet with the children and to go to Court. (!!!!)

In the past few weeks, several cases like ours have been successful, and we are hoping, praying, and dreaming for a similar outcome.

I feel a little like the widow in the Bible who kept banging at the Judge's door, demanding justice in her case. He finally relented because he was tired of being harassed.

I'm sure some of you are tired of my "banging" at your doors, requesting prayers to "bang" at the doors of heaven. And if that's the only reason you're praying, that's OK. Believe me, I'm tired and humbled to continue asking for prayers.

If it weren't for three beautiful brown children who are in need of a mom and dad, I would've given up long ago.

Thank you, friends. We appreciate each and every one of you so much.

Looking forward to good news in the near future...

Luann

11 May 2015

Tomorrow

So tomorrow is the big deadline when we are supposed to receive our recommendation from the Ethiopian Ministry (MOWA). For some reason, I had it in my head it was Wednesday, and when I realized it was Tuesday, I got all nervous.

Our social worker reminded me that MOWA does not necessarily meet deadlines, so it's possible we won't hear anything tomorrow. And if we do, all "authorities" involved are convinced it will be a negative recommendation that will then be appealed to the Courts. 

Well, I have a Higher Authority who will do whatever He wants, so I'm not throwing in the towel quite yet. 

Thanks to all who have been praying. Addis Ababa is 8 hours ahead of CST, so if you're awake in the night, please keep knocking on the doors of heaven. 

"Expect great things for God. Attempt great things for God." -William Carey


‪#‎FourMillionMinusThree‬

29 April 2015

Impossible

Around the time Ken and I started this thing called "the adoption journey," we were at a party at my cousin's house. Now you have to understand that when Lori throws a party, there are lots of people and lots of good food.

I don't remember the occasion, but there were a lot of people there. A lot. Most of whom I didn't know.

Lori and her "tribe," (friends, family, etc.) are some people of serious faith. They are Jesus- invoking, God-fearing, bursting-at-the-seams-with-faith kind of people. So when a man we met at the party learned we were adopting, I wasn't surprised that he wanted to pray over us.

I don't remember the man's name, what he looked like, or much about him. But I do remember his prayer. Mostly because it lasted for about 15 minutes--while we stood next to a trampoline in the backyard, and also because he prayed big. BIG, big prayers over us. That God would do more than we could ever imagine. That money would come from the least likely places. That God would show Himself through this process.

At that time we thought we were adopting one child. And we needed about $42,000.

On the car ride home, Ken and I were kind of quiet. I think this man's prayers kind of spooked us. Where did his faith come from, and was he prophesying some sort of huge "thing"?

Fast forward to now. We're adopting three kids. THREE. One who is a pre-teen. (Lord have mercy.) We've seen money come out of rocks, and God has supplied all of our needs.

[There were a few bumps along the way, like the time the social worker was coming over to do our home visit, and that morning the street sewer backed up into our pipes and nearly overflowed our bathtubs (sewage, people!) and we were without water all day, not to mention the clean up.]

After all this, we're told the Ministry has a May 12 deadline to write our recommendation, and all the powers that be are convinced it will be a negative recommendation....if they even honor the deadline. And then we'll have to go to Ethio Federal Court and attempt to have them overrule it. Which, quite honestly, I believe they will.

But what a hassle.

I was thinking today that I wished I could get that mysterious praying man back over here to pray for us again. For a miracle positive recommendation from the Ministry. And not just for our three children, but also for a three year girl at their orphanage who has a family in Utah waiting to bring her home as well. For an expedited process. For quick and just and godly decisions by leaders who may or may not believe in God.

But although I don't have that man, I have all of you. So I'm going to throw out a quick challenge. There are 13 days until our May 12 deadline. Will 20 of you join us in praying once every day for a positive recommendation, an expeditious process, and favor with those in authority?

Our 7-year old girl needs a home. Our 9-year old girl needs a home. Our 12-year old boy needs a home. The 3-year old girl at their orphanage needs a home. They all need nutritious food, adequate medical care, a mom and dad, a church family, neighbors and friends who have their best interests in mind.

If you are willing to be one of the twenty, like this post, leave a comment, or send me a message.

<3






07 April 2015

I suck at praying (but I rock at altered lyrics)

I'm a terrible pray-er.

I think I used to be better at it, but over the years my time spent praying has consistently dwindled.

I'd like to blame it on having a 4-year-old child constantly underfoot, but that's not totally true. I know prayer works--I've seen too many other-worldly experiences not to believe. But I get overwhelmed.

Like lately. I try praying for M, M, and D who are stuck in Ethiopia, waiting for our adoption to be finalized. I try praying for my sweet mother-in-law who is courageously fighting Stage 4 cancer. I try to pray about the sale of our condo in Florida that is supposed to close this Thursday--and for which we have to bring $13K+ to the closing. (#UpsideDownTimesAMillion) I try praying for my hubby and the writing deadlines he has for his book deal.

But more often than not my prayers devolve into something like Anne Lamott's book on the three great prayers: "Help, Thanks, Wow." (With an emphasis on the HELP portion.)

Sometimes I manage to utter whole sentences such as, "Lord, have mercy." And I feel proud of myself for having both a subject and a verb in my sentence.

And maybe, probably, my non-poetic utterances are OK. God knows. It's not like He needs a debriefing on our situations.

This past Sunday in church, we were singing "Mighty to Save" The lyrics go like this:
Saviour, he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save

I started thinking about the mountains in my life and the first thing that came to mind was MOWA, the Ethiopian Ministry that must sign off on our kids' adoption. So, with a smile on my face, I sang my revised lyrics in to Ken's ear:
Saviour, he can move the MOWA
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save


Then we sang "Your Grace is Enough" by Chris Tomlin. Once again, I inserted my own lyrics:
So remember Your people
Remember *our* children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

I have to admit, I felt rather clever singing these new lyrics. While I'm no Weird Al Yankovic, this felt like one of my more brilliant moments. I always get songs stuck in my head, so when I turn the stuck-in-my-head song lyrics into a personal prayer of sorts, I'm praying constantly. 

For my mother-in-law, who is thousands of miles away from us, I like these revised lyrics of Kari Jobe:
When she walks through deep waters
I know that You will be with her
When she's standing in the fire
She will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
She will not fear

She is not alone
She is not alone
You will go before her
You will never leave her

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake her
We are pressing into You
Lord, You fight her every battle
And we will not fear

I haven't found a song yet for my hubby that says, "Stop procrastinating and finish the stupid book," but I haven't given up looking.

What about you...any songs that you like to sing as your own? What do your prayers look or sound like during this season of your life?
 

24 March 2015

Nobody Should Cry Alone

Nobody should have to cry alone, especially a kid.

In one of our last updates on the children, the social worker that sometimes M gets sad and goes off by herself to cry for a while.

I know all kids cry. My 4 year old cries at some point nearly every day. But Mom or Dad is always nearby to comfort him.

I keep wondering what would cause a 9-year-old girl to cry. It could be anything really. A toy not shared. A disagreement with her sister. The perception that someone else is receiving preferential treatment.

Or maybe she cries because she has no mommy to tuck her in at night. Maybe someone is bullying her, and she doesn't have a grown up to stick up for her. Maybe she longs for a daddy to tell her how beautiful and funny and smart she is. Perhaps she is hungry. Feeling sick and not getting the right medication. Maybe she longs for a family. Maybe she is sad or scared or anxious and doesn't know why.

Whatever the case, the fact that she sometimes cries, alone, keeps me motivated.

We won't give up on these three children. No matter how long it takes. No matter how much money it costs. We will keep praying, advocating, and trying every avenue we can think of to get our kids home.


14 March 2015

Game Change

I haven't blogged about our adoption in more than a month. In a lot of scenarios no news is good news. In this case, no news isn't great because it means our kids are spending another day, another week, and another month in an orphanage without a mom and a dad.

It's such a complicated situation, and because of language and cultural differences, even we don't understand it fully. But I'll try to break it down, and then tell you about the new plan of action.

The key players:
  • Our kids-D, a 12 year old boy; M, a 9 year old girl, and L, a 7 year old girl. They have been in an orphanage since L was a baby, which in my estimate is about 7 years too long.
  • Mr. S, our kids advocate in Ethiopia; he also happens to be Ethiopian so he understand the culture and he has amazing access to government officials and people in power
  • The government officials in the state in which our kids live.
  • The Federal government in Ethio.
  • The "Ministry," a division that is roughly equivalent to our Dept. of Child and Family (DCFS) but on a federal level. 
The Requirements for Adoption (greatly simplified):
  • A required set of papers must be collected at the state level; they are then submitted to the Ministry. The Ministry writes a letter of recommendation and passes it on to the Federal Court, and they complete the adoption.
  • The required set of papers includes things such death certificates for the parents, testimony from friends and family that nobody is able to care for the children, birth certificates for the children, a list of all family members, names, addresses, social/physical/emotional exams for the children, all of our papers (doctor reports, references, letters from employers, police records, background checks, etc.) etc. etc. Hundreds of pages of documents. All must be notarized, translated, and authenticated.
  • All of these papers are for the safety of the children. There is a terrible history of child trafficking, black-market babies, bribes, and corruption. And also of some American parents adopting Ethio children and then abusing them, starving them, and not being good parents.

The problem (again, greatly simplified):
  • At one time international adoption was legal in all of Ethiopia.
  • In recent years, the decision to allow int'l adoption has been put in the hands of the states, and some states have exercised their right to no longer allow it.
  • Our children's state previously allowed int'l adoption, but about 18 months ago decided to stop them.
  • Our kids were approved by the state and all necessary papers were collected before they stopped allowing adoptions.
  • After their state stopped adoptions, the Ministry changed the required set of papers. They now require an additional signed letter saying an investigation was done and no local options for adoption were found. (Understandably, they would prefer if Ethio kids were adopted by Ethio parents and kept in country.)
  • So now we have the rub: The Ministry wants this one additional letter. The children's state officials refuse to give that letter--partly because they feel what they provided was sufficient evidence, and partly because they no longer have an adoption "division," per se. 
  • The Ministry won't budge without the letter; the state won't budge and write the letter.
  • Caught in the middle are our children. 
  • Witness after witness have confirmed no local options are available. Our boy remembers the death of his parents. Nobody has come forward in 7 years to adopt these children. They are older, and a sibling set of 3, so they are considered "special needs" in the world of adoption.
 The original plan:
  • Our children's advocate, Mr. S, would negotiate with the Ministry to get a letter of recommendation from them, despite not having this one last piece of paper. He would appeal to them on the basis of the welfare of the children.
The problem:
  • They are more concerned with crossing their T's and dotting their I's. They have gotten bad press in the past for allowing some adoptions that turned out bad, and they don't want any more negative publicity.
The new plan:
  • Since his negotiations with the Ministry have not been fruitful, he is going to ask them to write a letter of recommendation, even if it's a negative letter.
  • There is always the chance that when push comes to shove, someone will be having a good day and write a positive letter...that would be ideal.
  • If they write a negative letter, which they probably will, Mr. S. will take the letter to the Federal Court and appeal their decision.
  • This has only been done one time that we know of, and it was successful in getting the Court to approve the adoption. The only downside is that before the child leaves the country, they must have a new birth certificate issued listing the adoptive parents as their parents. And who has to issue this new certificate? The Ministry. And of course, they are dragging their feet. That case is ongoing, so we pray for a good outcome for that child...and then for us.

It's a risky move; nobody likes their decision to be appealed or usurped. But Mr. S. feels that since we have no traction on Plan A, it's time to move to Plan B.

This is a stressful time for all involved. I can't help but think of all the time, money, and energy, and prayers that have gone into giving these three children a chance to experience a family, a home, unconditional love. And it's not just our time, money, and prayers. It's all of you. Our faithful friends and family who have contributed generously through fundraisers, donations, prayers, and encouragement.

And it's not just our three children. There's another little girl at their orphanage who is in the same boat. She has a family in Utah that is awaiting good news on her case. And that family has been waiting even longer than us.

Every day that passes, I think, They could be here. They could be learning how to be kids. They could have a mom and dad to protect them and provide for them. They could have access to medical care and good nutrition. They could be grieving their losses and moving toward healing. 

We feel this is a critical juncture. Would you, once again, pray for all involved? God holds the hearts of those in power, and He can change their minds. He can soften hearts.

We're putting all our eggs in His basket, because He is our only hope.

13 February 2015

Love is in the air

Valentine's Day has always been a favorite holiday for me, even when I was childless, unmarried, and not even dating. It's one of the only holidays where you can get away with making handmade cards and little ditties for around the house, even if you're not very crafty.

So once again this year, I have plumbed the depths of my innerPinterest and have come up with a few projects to share with you.

A few weeks ago I found this "Christmas" tree on clearance at Kohl's. It normally sells for $39,95, but I got it for something like $6.99. I think it makes the perfect all-holiday family tree, so don't be surprised when you see it decked out for Fourth of July or Easter.
 



For Valentines, I've decorated it with little paper hearts on card stock. Some of the hearts have heart-shaped photos of our family. The 3-D pink hearts are from Dollar Tree. They were on long sticks which I broke in half, then twisted the branches of the tree around them.



Next up: V-Day Bunting. You guys, I am crazy about bunting. Partly because I have have the perfect wide door frame to hang it, and partly b/c it is so sweet and easy to make.


For the love of all things good and right, I can't find the original post I got this bunting pattern from. But I know it was on this website: http://thecraftingchicks.com/

I enlarged their bunting to fit my space, but the artwork is all theirs.



Ok, and now we're on to Valentines for Jack's preschool class. Rest assured, when we have 3 additional children, I am confident I will buy the boxed variety like every other busy mom. But really, these were pretty quick to make. And we only had to make 16.

I got this idea from FiveHomeHearts and actually borrowed several of her elements. I had to change the shape of the card because the bubbles I bought were a different shape than hers. (Hers were long and thin bottles; mine were short and squatty.) I also thought it would be fun to add some heart-shaped bubbles coming out of the word "Blow."


 I got these bubbles, which were 12 to a pack, for a couple bucks at Walmart.

Because the bubbles came in neon colors, I decided to go with this theme. I like this bold look for Valentines from a little boy. They seem more playful and less dainty/girly.





I started with 8.5 x 11" cardstock and printed two images per page.
I cut the paper in half and punched holes (using a pin and a pen b/c I can't find my hole punch) for the string that would hold the bubbles.

Then we threaded some red yarn through the holds, tied it around the bubbles, and folded the sides to make a built-in envelope.


Clear tape and stickers keep the valentine closed. 
Lots and lots of stickers.



Here is the template I used, in case you feel inspired. I took out my son's name, but if you want to add your own child's name, the "HeartlandRegular" font is a really fun one to use. Download it for free here.


 So there you have it friends. Pinterest extravaganza at our house. 

Wishing you a love-filled weekend!

Luann