keeping the right perspective

So, we weren’t submitted to the Embassy yesterday, as we had expected. 3 weeks post court would have been better than the normal, but we were still hopeful. Our children’s medicals are still not complete. There are only two clinics that are approved to handle the US adoption cases so I imagine there is long line to get the children in. It’s likely we’ll be submitted next Wednesday, January 11th, and again at that point we have another 2 week wait to see what the US embassy will say regarding our case.

This wait, along with my already extra emotionally challenging week, could easily make me feel derailed, down, and discouraged. It’s definitely tempting to go there. I said “no” to self pity a long time ago so I just can’t allow an ungrateful heart to be my portion. I choose hope, I choose to look up, and I choose to be happy today no matter what my circumstances may feel like.

There are so many things to be thankful for. One being that there are two less orphans in this world.

This was one of their original referral photos:

Our L looked so heartbroken. His deep, sad eyes hurt my heart every time I studied this picture. I have no idea what this 3 year old has witnessed in his life so far. I can only and don’t want to imagine. He came in to our agency’s care with a fractured leg and quite underweight for his age. It doesn’t take a doctor or a psychologist to tell that his downcast face was a sign of physical and emotional pain. Abandonment.Fear.Rejection. That’s what was written on his heart, but not over his life. He felt fear, God said Love. He knew abandonment, God said Never Forsaken. He stared at rejection straight in the face, and God said Son.

He had L & N on offer for us from before time began. He knew they would be the fulfilled promise of an inheritance. He knew they would fill a deep void the size of children in our hearts. He knew they would help us overcome our own fight with fear and rejection. This whole adoption process is a beautiful picture of the redemptive heart of the Father. He saw the end from the beginning. He says that the final outcome of our story will be sweet and not bitter.

Here’s the second photo we received of our darlings, about a month after we accepted the referral:

Did God whisper in dear, sweet L’s heart that we were coming and that he belonged? After meeting L, I know his God created personality is joyous and happy and content. He never stops laughing or giggling or smiling. He is a delight to our heart as well as his sisters. The original photo was a moment in time captured by a camera so we could learn to pray harder and to never stop contending for the happy boy that he is. I know I will face many a days in which I will need to remind myself of where they have come from in order to leap over a child rearing obstacle. I know life won’t always be laughter or happiness or contentment. But, I know the One who is always these things and who is on offer every day, happy or sad.

I remind myself too of where I’ve come from and I am filled with gratefulness.

waiting game

I’ve had a lot of people ask why we weren’t able to bring our children home on the past trip so I thought I would give some more details on what our adoption process entails. Our most recent trip to Ethiopia was for the purpose of meeting our lovely children and also to appear before a judge in court. This is a requirement for all Ethiopian adoptions now, but wasn’t when we started the process 2 1/2 years ago. The judge asked several questions about learning and keeping some of their Ethiopian culture, and wanted to make sure that we had met L & N and still wanted to adopt them. Thankfully, all of our paperwork was in order and she declared the adoption was finalized and irrevocable. Done deal, they were now forever ours. The children were pronounced our son and daughter on December 12th and were officially given our name on that day.

So, the first trip was the Ethiopia side of things. The children are legally ours, but the USA now has to recognize the adoption officially and that is currently what we are waiting on. After court, new birth certificates are issued, Ethiopian passports are issued and they are given new medical exams. Once this is done, our agency submits all the paperwork to the US Embassy in Addis for review. We found out last night that all we are missing currently is their new medicals so we are hoping that will be done this week and we can be submitted to the Embassy next week. Once the paperwork is submitted to the Embassy, they have 2 weeks (technically 10 business days) to reply to us, saying they have everything they need and we can come pick the kids up or they might say they need more information in order to approve the children’s exit visa. We are hopeful everything will be in order and we can go to Ethiopia quickly to pick them up and bring them home! On the embassy trip, we will have L & N in our care pretty much immediately and will appear at the US embassy all together for a final interview and then wait two days for them to process their US visa.

L & N will become US citizens upon touching US soil so at this point, we are still trying to decide if we immediately go to the States to process their US passports or if we go home first and wait a few months before making such a big trip (this option is our preferred). In order for them to enter Cyprus on Ethiopian passports, they have to get a visa prior to arrival and that can only be done in person at a Cyprus embassy. The only Cyprus Embassy’s that are in the near vicinity are Cairo or Tel Aviv. We are hoping to go to the latter since we have family to visit and stay with and we would rather not be out and about in Cairo in its current state. In order for them to get into Israel, we have to get them a visa at the Israeli embassy in Addis, which will add about a week onto our Embassy trip.

I know it all sounds so complicated (and it is a little), but every detail has come together so far for this adoption and we have full confidence that the rest will be completed in the right timing and by God’s grace. If WE can adopt, YOU can too! Trust me. God has provided every penny we have needed so far and we know He will continue to. It’s been amazing to have so many friends stand with us and support us through this process. Thank you, you know who you are.

Two former orphans are now called a son and a daughter. Isn’t that just beautiful? And it’s been worth every single second we’ve waited for them…

We’ll keep you posted but please be praying we’ll be submitted to Embassy next week and that the Embassy will approve us to come without any other delays. Pray for peace and the knowing that they belong in L & N’s hearts.

We are completely smitten. How could we not be? Look at those faces!

their faces…

I study their faces every spare moment I have. Their pictures are on our phones, our computers, and printed out to be carried with me everywhere I go. I study their toes and their knees and their perfect little noses and big round eyes. He looks like a deep thinker and he also looks deeply sad. I am sure the recent separation from his mother plagues him daily. He came into the orphanage with a fractured leg so who knows what else he has had to face. She looks like a energetic ball of innocent life, with a pure smile and sparkles in her eyes. Pictures are so vivid and yet so limiting. It’s strange to have children that I’ve never seen in 3D. I want to know what their skin feels like, what they smell like, what they look like when they sleep, and what their little voices sound like. Soon, I keep telling myself, soon.

The end (or correctly, the beginning) is in sight, people. There were definitely moments that I thought this day would never come. 6 years of wanting children desperately, 2 years and 2 months in the adoption process, 17 months waiting for a referral and now it’s all happening.

There is much to tell about their story, but most will have to wait for the sake of confidentiality rules. They think he is 3 and she is about 18 months, but they have no birth certificates to be sure. They come from a very rural area of Ethiopia, a place M & I have never traveled to before. They don’t speak the native language of Amharic, but rather their own tribal tongue. We thought we might have at least that advantage, but I guess now we’ll be on the same page as most other adoptive parents. They are ours and that’s all that really matters. Planned before time began to be grafted into our family tree. They will be given a new name and a new identity as a sign that God has joined us together. He is their future.

The next step is our court date in Ethiopia. We should hear within the next couple of weeks when our court date is. Our court trip will consist of us meeting the children for the first time (!!!) and appearing before a judge to testify that we’ve seen the children and want to adopt them and will take care of them. Then, if all of the paperwork is in order, they will become legally ours on that day (let the posting of pictures commence!). After that, we’ll have to wait for the US to approve the adoption, which will take another several weeks. Right now, it’s looking like early next year we’ll have them home with us.

Please pray that we’ll hear news of our court date soon.
Pray for our babies to know they are accepted, loved, and that they belong.
Pray for their health as she has a URTI and ear infection and he has a fractured leg and impetigo.

taking a deep breath

Tomorrow, we fly to the States for a 6-week itinerating trip. During the first two weeks, we’ll spend the days helping my mom pack up her house to move. This is the house that I’ve lived in since I was 8 years old. It’s where I’ve come home to each year I’ve been out of the house (13 years now). The house holds a lot of fond memories of my childhood and some not so fond memories of growing up. However, I know it’s going to be an emotional time.

The scary truth is, my parents are getting divorced. I HATE divorce. I may be 30 with my own family, but it still hurts bad. Like shatter my heart in a million pieces bad. I never thought I would have divorced parents, but hey, I never thought I would deal with infertility either. C’est la vie. But oh how I wish it wasn’t part of life right now. This past year has been a devastating emotional roller coaster as we’ve walked through this whole process (albeit from a distance). I want to do everything I can do to protect my mom, even though I’ve come to realize there’s not a whole lot I can actually do for her other than pray and encourage. I have absolutely no relationship with my dad right now, which is not by my own choice. (Just when I thought my father issues were dealt with.) It’s such a sad, sad situation. He may be my “step” dad, but he was the only father I knew until I was 21 years old. He’s my father, I love him dearly and I will never give up hope for restoration. Thank God now for a birth father and father-in-love who love me unconditionally.

Over the past months, I’ve been tempted to take on an “orphan spirit” and add it on top of my grief and sorrow, but I remind myself that I have been adopted into the family of God and no matter what our earthly circumstances are, this will remain unaltered. I am loved for who I am and not what I can give. I am accepted, even with my broken pieces and insecurities. I have been given His name and this is all I need. I am called His own. And this gives me peace.

Please pray for M & I as we face this situation. Pray we can be beacons of hope and light. Pray for my heart.

Okay, I don’t want this to be a complete downer, so let me list some of the things I am looking forward to in the good ‘ol USA. As someone who has spent the last 10 1/2 years living abroad, I don’t miss as many things as I used to, however I am thankful for the things we do get to take advantage of.

1. Family and friends that I only get to see once a year
2. Sales
3. Customer service where the customer is actually right some of the time
4. Target :)
5. Mexican food
6. Iced Americanos for $2
7. Cheap gas
8. Trader Joe’s
9. Not feeling like I have to cover up my American accent
10. People who are fatter than me The ease and comfort of American life
11. English book stores/libraries

one month waiting…

I’ve been keeping my facebook updated, but I wanted to catch you all up on the adoption.  We are now officially in line.  Sunday marked one month of waiting for our referral (when we find out who are children are).  It felt incredible to get all the paperwork off.  We are now waiting to receive news on our children, not just documents.  The reality of we’re gonna be parents soon (!) is really hitting us.

We also recently found out that Ethiopia has turned into a two trip country, which means that parents have to appear in court in Ethiopia to share their desire to adopt and commitment to the child(ren).  Then, each parent has to return 6-12 weeks later to pick up their child and bring them home!  M and I are actually excited about this change because we were already planning on doing this in order to obtain a certain kind of visa that will enable the children to become US citizens upon arrival on US soil.  In fact, we plan on going for our court date and then staying until we can bring them home!  We’ve always wanted to study Amharic and spend a longer season living in Ethiopia so this would be the perfect opportunity to do just that.  Plus we would get the added bonus of being able to see our children daily and start the bonding experience even sooner.  Wouldn’t that be amazing? I imagine it will be really heart wrenching to say goodbye to them each day, as they stay in the transition home, but I think the benefits will outweigh the difficulty.

My arms are so ready to hold them and tell them they belong.

green monday

Today is a holiday in Cyprus, commonly called Green Monday.  It is also known as Clean Monday or Καθαρή Δευτέρα.  Basically, it’s the first day of Lent, which the Greek Orthodox observe for 40 days leading up to Easter.  It is tradition to be outside in the fresh air and today couldn’t have been more lovely for just that.  Most people head up to the mountains to be in true nature.  It feels like spring time today.  I am guessing it was at least 70 F outside and that is up in the mountains where I live.  I imagine the coastal city which is about 20 minutes away is much warmer.  I love the warm weather.  I am generally a happier person when I am warm and can hear the birds chirping.  I don’t envy my loved ones back in DC with 4+ feet of snow.  I love that I live in a climate that is warm most of the year, although our winter is bitter since it’s difficult to warm up indoors due to concrete houses and zero insulation.  I don’t have the day off, but I couldn’t help but take my lunch break outside today.  I took a drive and found some beautiful nature to photograph.  It’s not hard to find beauty here in Cyprus, although most days I take it for granted.

The only update on the adoption is that we are still waiting on this one document from the USCIS office in Athens.  They wrote us about 10 days ago saying they needed an updated license from the agency who produced our home study.  We finally got that from them and now Athens has everything they need.  We hope to hear any day now.  We really want to get our dossier off and I feel my patience getting thinner.

Enjoy my neighborhood…

i’m back…

I’ve been gone way too long.  Partly because there wasn’t a whole lot to update you on.  Mostly because I’ve been going through a season of heartache and haven’t felt the words or desire to share much of anything.  I don’t want to uncover anyone here so I won’t go into details but it is enough to say that it’s the most difficult thing I have ever had to face.  The sadness is deep and the reality unimaginable, but still there is hope and looking forward to the future. Never give up on hope or on people.  That’s what I keep reminding myself.  It’s easy to give into disappointment and despair but how can I forget all the things the Lord has brought me through in my lifetime.  He is carrying me now too.  I can’t, even for one second, minimize His faithfulness and goodness. When crisis comes, and it will, reach out to Him and you’ll find that His arms are already stretched out.  And although this joyous season of adopting is tainted with life’s bruises, every day I think about the children we will soon hold in our arms.  Lord, let me never lose sight of Your promises.  And thank you for my incredible husband who has walked with me through it all.

We are still dealing with paperwork. We only lack ONE document and that is the approval from our 1600-A application, which will give us pre-approved permission to bring two orphans into the US and make them US citizens.  They have received everything they need and we hope to hear from them any day now.  After we receive that, a few more documents need to be notarized and then we can send off the dossier to our agency who will then send it on to Ethiopia.  That’s when we get in line and wait, but we’ll have done our part which will feel so good.  I’d rather be waiting for our children than on documents.

In my last post, I mentioned the issue with the age request.  Our official request is infant twins of either gender ages 0-24 months or a sibling group of one infant and one child up to age 4.  We are dreaming of baby twins, but we just know that whoever they are, they are already our children and will be perfect for our family.

My main focus now is to apply to different places who give grant money to families who are adopting.  As well as coming up with creative ways to raise money for the adoption (I feel an original MP3 written by my sis-in-love coming soon…download for a small donation of course).  Speaking of fundraisers, if you are a coffee lover or know of someone who is, you can order coffee from Just Love Coffee and we will receive $5 from every bag of coffee you order towards our adoption!  Check out the website, it is a wonderful way to bless those who are adopting.  M and I tried the Yirgacheffe (not the best we’ve had) and the Sumatra (delicious) and are eager to try more.

We are also getting ready for the influx of people that come to us at this time of year.  Our community of 30 is about to grow to 70 or more.  More about that later…

On a most happy note, M’s sister and her husband and three daughters are visiting with us right now for the holidays.  They are staying in our home for almost two weeks.  I love their little girls and it’s so much fun to feel all the energy that children bring into a home.  I think it’s a prophetic sign of what is about to come…and I can hardly wait.

the beautiful darlings dancing this summer in switzerland