Thursday, July 31, 2014

Introducing Two of the US's Cutest New Citizens!!

The girls getting ready to board our next flight to Chicago

Wow! The emotions caught me by surprise! After two years of starting our adoption journey, eleven months after being officially "matched", we finally get to bring these precious girls home. We landed in Washington DC this morning at 8:22. Shortly after, our girls became US citizens! 

I carried the sealed manilla envelop through customs filled with important documents that we were not allowed to see. The officer opens up the envelop and in it spills out approximately 50 documents and pictures for each baby. After signing and organizing forms, she stamps their passports. Welcome to America sweet girls!!

Watching the airplanes fly into the airport 

So serious sometimes

Happy girl!

A BIG thank you specifically to Brigette. We met through adoption four years ago and I am still so thrilled to call her friend. Through her, God's light shines bright, for the world to see. She is caring, compassionate, loving, kind and generous. Her hope and joy for children is obvious in all she does. Her love for our heavenly Father is evident in the way she does life. And she is in an inspiration as a mama, a wife and a friend. Thank you, Father, for allowing this connection and time together. Thank you, friend, for everything you did to bless us. The list is endless. And I am forever grateful!

Our beautiful friend, Brigette, helping us all of the way home.

We had a minor bump in the road. There was a miscommunication on one of the flights from DC to Chicago. I happened to get booked on a later flight then Brigette and was put on stand by. The flight was completely booked and I was told it was unlikely we would be able to fly together. Because Brigette had one of the girls as a "lap child", this meant that she would take one of the girls earlier and I would have to catch a later flight home. I was disappointed to not be able to fly home together. Bummed to say the least. But somehow. Someway. Through volunteers, pilots and incredible flight attendants, God opened the door for us to fly home together.

Ready to go!

Dear Jesus, thank you for guiding our flight safely home. Thank you for our two daughters who are now US citizens! So exciting! Thank you for the girls patience and pleasant attitudes on the way home. It was a blessing to be able to relax (as much as possible) traveling such long hours. Thank you for the many people who blessed us along the way. Each gesture was noticed. Each kind word was appreciate. Each opportunity to help touched my heart. So glad to be home. Excited to be on US soil. And delighted to see my family together soon! Amen. 

Long flight Home

Almost home

The flight was amazing - I never thought I would utter those words after a flight this long! But the girls quickly made friends with many Americans on the flight and we had helpers the entire way. Two US missionary doctors (an OB and and ER doc) sat in front of us and told incredible stories of their time in Chad, Africa. A group of fifteen school kids surrounded us. My amazing friend, Brigette, sat beside us and a sweet young homeschool boy in the isle seat in our row. Missionaries from all over the US and Canada filled the plane and offered their big hearts to serve in any way we needed. 

The girls traveled like pro's. They championed through the long hours and slept quite a bit. In our free time between eating and sleeping, we played with "kitchen" with cups and spoons. The same tools also turned into drums, which I'm sure all of the neighboring seats loved. 

Who needs fancy toys when you can be entertained for hours with a cup and spoon :)

And just when the cup started to get boring, we discovered complimentary socks. We played peek-a-boo, hide the socks and had a puppet show, of course. 

She loved the socks

And even in our moments of delirium, we were still smiling

Getting sleepy

And finally they drifted back to sleep

Dear Lord, thank you for the new friends and old friends alike who rallied beside us to help us make it back to the US. Thank you for those who held our babies and those who ran to get me a coffee while my hands were full. Thank you for the adult conversation that kept my mind busy and my heart full. Thank you for the many missionaries who have shared their stories of love and hardship, sacrifice and hope. Thank you for the little boy who sat next to us and was beyond patient. He was a great helper and we enjoyed hearing about his family and their adoption journey too. Thank you for the hands who fed our girls, changed diapers, tolerated a couple of tears, showed support, asked questions, grabbed bags and just showed gentle kindness. So many people gave of their time to offer help. I pray that each one knows that their compassion meant the world to me and our girls. Amen. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ethiopian Airport

Outside Addis Ababa Airport 

We are still not quite sure how we were able to get a flight out of Addis tonight. Miracles do happen! All seats were booked and we were on the "wait" list to be approved. According to the online website, no seats were available. Not even a business or first class ticket could be purchased. I have yet to receive even my confirmation number but I do know that the ticket was able to be purchased. Somehow, through prayer, we were issued a ticket today shortly after picking up our visas.

The huge blessing in it all is that we will be able to ride home with five other friends who can help with the girls on the long flights. One flight alone, here to the US (making a fuel stop in Rome) will be 17 hours. We are looking at 30 hours of flight and layover time until we get home. The many extra hands will priceless!

Addis Airport

Ticket Counter 

The Girls are Fast Asleep

We are off!! I'm so thankful for the help of our Moby wraps to help us travel. Each baby girl is wrapped in a separate wrap to keep them close. This also gives me the ability to carry my 25 lbs carry on. Thank you, Lord, for muscle memory and the strength - both physical and mental - to sustain us. We are excited to be home soon!!

Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing us with tickets home. Thank you for providing friendships and willing hearts to help. I'm beyond ecstatic to see our family soon. A true miracle! Thank you for knowing our needs and providing for each one. Amen.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We Passed Embassy!!

Happy to Go Home Tomorrow!!

Today, after a long two years, we PASSED the US Embassy!! We are so very excited!! What a journey!!

I sent a special request this morning to the Embassy to be seen this afternoon for an appointment. Lights out. Back on. Internet off. Internet on. Finally, a reply. The Embassy agreed to see us at 1pm. I got the girls ready and asked them to eat early. They didn't want to, of course. "You'll be hungry later if you don't eat." I'm talking to them like they can understand. They both look at me with wide eyes. I raise the spoon to their mouths and they both shake their head in unison as they refused their vegetables. One of the girls perches her lips together and blows. She giggles. God, please keep their tummies full while we are out.

I called the concierge for a ride. And off we went in the taxi to the US Embassy building in Addis Ababa. The building is large with many security officers. Passports and bags are checked. Metal detecter used. Absolutely no photos are allowed. I hand in my phone and receive a number to retrieve it upon departure.

Everyone is so kind. Doors are opened and greetings are given as I walk from the security check point to the main building. All heads turn as I enter into the large waiting room filled with people. The girls are strapped in close in a Moby wrap, one on each hip. "Can I help you?", I hear a kind Ethiopian woman ask. "Adoptions", I reply.

I was so anxious and excited. My stomach was fluttering as we approached counter number three.

The lady behind the thick glass counter asks for my last name and then tells me there has been a problem. "You've got to be kidding me" I whisper silently in my head. Heart-stopping.

"We do not have your medicals. Do you know why?" I was in disbelief. "Excuse me." I asks her to repeat the question. I heard her the first time, but it didn't sink in.  I start, "Medicals were done last week, ma'am. It was the hospitals job to courier them here. I was told it was going to be done last Monday - in the afternoon." I force a smile as I try to see her through the glare of the glass.

"I will talk to an officer. I will ask them to go ahead and see you". Deep breathes. Slow. Calm. Breathing. "Go to window twelve, please" as she points to her left.

I look up to noticed seas of brown eyes following me. Repeated requests to help. I smile politely and am thankful for the warm attempts to offer respite.

I've got this. I stay confident and assertive. We will get this figured out. We have to. I'm leaving tomorrow. I am getting on a plane. Oh, Lord, please let me get on that plane.

"Hi Miss, I'm sorry to inform you that your medicals did not arrive. You will have to come back another time with medicals in hand." The young American man behind the new window is tall and slender. "Can I still be seen today?" I ask in a pleeing tone. "Yes," he replies. "You have until 4pm to return all of the documents". I think for a moment how this will be possible. I have been to the Embassy two previous times last week and no mention of these extra documents were given before today. I stand firm, but kind, "How am I suppose to get the documents? This is the job of the medical professionals to transfer our records. I can not contact our agency because you took my phone at the security (all cameras are taken - including phones). Do you have a phone I can use here?"

He looks around as he thinks of what to say. He sees my full arms and replies, "I will do it for you. I will contact your agency. I'll ask them to quickly deliver your needed documents to pass. Please just wait here."

An hour passes. The girls fuss and I sway the mama sway. I sit on the one carpeted area and kids flock to love on the girls. But neither are interested. They lean back and ask to be taken out of the carrier. I agree. They are overly tired. Two hours pass. They rediscover the small green bottles of shampoo and conditioner I let them bring to keep their hands busy. The cap is tightly closed and I let them chew on the ends. They lay their faces down in my lap for a quick rest.

I look up to see our officer look for me in the small gathering of Americans who are now waiting to be seen. He waves me over to the same booth. I whisk the girls up in both arms and weave between families.

"Please raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the whole truth?" This is happening. Oh my goodness, "Yes". After five more minutes of questions and paperwork, we were given clearance!! "Please pick up your visa tomorrow at 10am." Thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Lord, thank you for working out the details. Thank you for this day and for the hundreds of people who have supported us. It really has taken a village and I'm so humbled by the community of people I have the privilege to call friends. Thank you for prompting hearts to ask questions, take interest and lift us up. Thank you for the private messages, e-hugs and love. I truly can not imagine staying in a developing country half way across the world, alone, with sick, teething babies, without generous support of so many amazing people. Father, please pour down your blessings to all who have taken part in our adoption journey. It has touched our lives and given us strength to do the impossible. Thank you for being next to me each step of the way. For hearing my silent prayers each day. For protecting us and keeping us wrapped in your shield of safety. Please continue to bless this journey and bring us home to our lovely family. Words can not describe the excitement I feel to be home again - all together - as a family! I'm beyond beaming!! Amen.

Happy Birthday To You!!

Happy 40th Birthday to my all time favorite person in the world! We made it last night into DC with two great flights. A huge blessing! We slept in our own king bed without little visitors in the middle of the night searching for a warm spot to cuddle. Another win for a night! And we leave today from the United States to see our girls in Africa! Jackpot!

I'm sure when you were 10 years old, you thought and dreamed about life when you turned 40. I picture you with your handsome boy features laying in the grass, feet crossed, gazing in the sky picking out your favorite animal shapes as the day passed you by. I know it included a great job, an amazing wife...and 6 kids under the age of 7.


Wait, what?

You didn't picture picking up one year old twins on your 40th birthday? For the love...I wouldn't have imagined this either. But I'm so glad that our Father stretches us to follow His heart. I'm happy that He says His ways are higher than ours. His thoughts greater.

I couldn't have dreamed for this life together. I had no idea the wild adventures we would partake in as husband and wife. I never would have imagined this grand, crazy journey. I'm so thankful. I love the way God gave me you. That He blessed us with each other. How He took two souls and joined them as one. Im thankful that through thick and thin we have fought for love. We have held on to each other. To the commitment we made when we said, "I do".

Thank you for loving our family in a way no one else can. I appreciate your warm, kind spirit. Your desire to put our family first. Your yummy dinners and desserts. And your willing heart to always be a good helper. Thank you for loving me. Not just the me that others see. But the parts that you know more intimately. The hard places. You know my flaws (even when I don't see them) and you love without end. Thank you for reminding me of true, authentic beauty. For encouraging me to love myself and others unconditionally. To step outside of the box to find freedom in just being "yourself". Thank you for supporting all of my crazy ideas and for asking me to continue to dream big. I am grateful that you trust this journey we are on together. Thank you for trusting me as a wife and a mama to our precious family. Thank you for reminding me of God's love through your words, thoughts and actions. You don't just speak of a happy life, but you continue to reinvent what beautiful means with me. Thank you for walking this journey together! I would say, "I do" 100 x's all over again. I love you!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fun Friday - Update 42

Awesome news this week!! The girls continue to be healthy and strong - a huge praise!! Thank you for your continued prayers for safety and health! I know God hears each one.

And those sweet smiles. Oh my goodness, they make this mama heart melt.

We found out this week that we did indeed pass our first court date, in which a birth relative gave testimony, again, that the girls are who he says they are. On one side there is a huge sense of relief that comes from passing the first court date. Its emotional, for sure. Passing court means that we can now pursue parental rights to raise the girls. We, are of course, thrilled! On the other side, it does make me sad that these girls don't get to spend their lives growing up with their birth families. Adoption often comes from a a place of loss first. Yes, they are gaining a family which we are forever grateful that God chose us. But they also lost their first mom way too early, their extended family, their culture, their language and so much more. We will forever be tied to Ethiopia. We will always be responsible to keep their culture alive within our family (as much as the girls want). And the Lord knows, we are thankful for the many families who surround us who have also adopted, many from Ethiopia as well.

We are thankful, today, for all God has done. He has taken us on an amazing journey. Not one we expected, but one that has brought incredible joy and blessings! We are just miles away from completing this marathon. The last legs can sometimes feel like the longest, but the adrenaline to cross the finish line is high. Many times, these are the moments that I am praying big, bold prayers and digging deep to keep moving forward. Its often the cheers of the crowd and the love from supporters that carry me through.

In much of the same way, we need you, family and friends, to love and pray for us.  We are leaving today to fly to Ethiopia. Today! Oh my goodness, we are leaving today (I'm not even close to packed, but don't tell Mike. It'll be fine :) )! We bought tickets this week and will see the girls on either Sunday or Monday. We are beyond excited to get to see them again! It feels surreal that we get to love on them and kiss those sweet little cheeks in just days!!

I'm pretty much a hot mess! Uhhhh, the tears! And for those of you who know me well, you know bringing me to tears isn't easy. But not this week. We are ready. Over the moon delighted!

Many have asked what you can do to help while we are away. The biggest and best thing that you can do is pray. Yep, so simple and yet so significant. Here are our requests:

* Please pray for our safe travel to and from Ethiopia. Pray that there would be no turbulence (added bonus but worthy of prayer :) ) and that travel in-country would be smooth. Ethiopian driving, in case you missed it before, can be seen here. Yeah, enough said. Maybe extra prayers for safety.
* Please pray for our kids' hearts while we are away. They will be staying with family who will take great care of them. The kids are old enough to know we are going to Ethiopia and are super excited we get to see the girls. But they are sad their mama and daddy are going to be gone. And to be honest, its hard on me too. I get it. Its really a complicated feeling to have kids oceans apart.
* Please pray for safety and health for all of us. Please pray we stay well while in country and when traveling and once home. Pray, specifically, that our kids stay healthy and safe. Also, pray for the health of our family watching the kids. Long story short, the last few times we have left, someone has gotten very sick and emergency arrangements had to made. Pray this isn't the case and that God brings supernatural protection over our family.
* Pray that our time in country is blessed. That the girls have open hearts for us. That we get the work done that we need to in order to become a family. Please pray God moves mountains with miracles to bring these girls home soon. And that discernment would be granted while we are there for decision to be made to honor Him.

Thankful! We are so thankful!

Father, thank you for blessing us with such great support from family and friends. Thank you for the community of like-minded families that have wrapped their arms around our adoption journey. For two years families have specifically prayed for us regarding our adoption. Wow! That is humbling. Thank you for our children, both at home and in Ethiopia. Thank you for gifting me with their sweet little selves. What a true blessing to be called their mama. Oh, Lord, how we love them. Words, really can't express just how much. And when I think about my love for them, I think about your love for me too. Thank you that you designed this life specifically for me. That you wove in two messy lives to make beautiful. Thank you for Mike. For the story we get to write together. Thank you for his hard work, commitment and dedication to our family. I couldn't imagine going through life with anyone else. He is simply the best for me. For our family. Please hear our prayers, Lord, and bless us abundantly. Amen.