There is so much I want and need to say about my time in Ethiopia this month. And I am still working on processing through it all, but I do want to share that week with you.
Before I do that, though, I have to give and enormous shout of recognition to someone who was with me in Ethiopia, though you will not see her in any of the pictures; she was behind the lens. My mother. I have always known that she is an incredible, loving and selfless woman. But our week together in Ethiopia absolutely blew my mind. She flew half way around the world to SERVE. She did not come with any expectations, and she was there for me and for Bradley in the beautiful moments and in the difficult and often messy moments. She did things that I did not know existed (ummm....washing footie pajamas full of poop in the toilet??), and she did them without ever complaining or hesitating. Mom, you are the single most incredible woman I have ever and will ever know. You are a SHINING example of the selfless, servant leadership Christ calls us to. How blessed by God am I to have been raised by such a woman. I pray that the Lord will allow me to become such a mother one day. And if He does, my journey began with you. I love you.
We walked back in to the place that has been on my mind since the day we left last month.
It's wash day.
Once we arrived, we had to wait a few minutes (felt like forever) for his nannies to get him ready to leave his home for good. I cannot even begin to imagine what these sweet women were thinking as they held this boy they have loved and cared for for the last time.
And then they brought him down, and I knew I would never have to be without him again.
He was most unsure about what was going on.
But we did manage to get a quick smile out of him.
With the head nanny who took the time to answer all of my questions.
The beautiful woman who carried him out of his room and down to his mom.
And sweet, sweet Tizita, our translator and all things wonderful, who helped our family on both trips and so obviously loves what she does.
We took one last look around his room upstairs to say good bye, and then he walked down those stairs for the very last time.
The nannies were so sad to see him go and so happy that he was finally with his family.
Walking out of the building.
I think he must have been kissed a thousand times that day.
It made me so grateful to see how deeply these women love the children they help raise.
One last kiss good bye...
And it was finally time. Time to do the thing we set out to do three years, three months and three days prior to this moment. Time to walk out of the orphanage with our son. Because he doesn't belong there any more. He belongs with us.
And here we go.
Out in the great big world.
Time to leave.
Our first night at the hotel together was so sweet. He held this pose, with the spoon in his mouth, unsure of what to do. But when he tasted that food for the first time, his sweet little eyes lit up and he had no trouble gobbling down the rest of it.
Getting better with the spoon.
Playing on the floor with mom.
It is incredible to watch and see what a difference one-on-one attention makes for a child.
And our first bottle.
First meal in the hotel restaurant.
Our days looked a lot like this.
Lots of face time with mom.
And about 23 million hugs.
We were not allowed to leave our hotel once we had Bradley in our custody, so we became VERY fond of our balcony.
Lots of time out here.
And playing and eating and playing and eating.
Our Embassy interview was on Tuesday morning, and we got his visa the very next day!
Already looking healthier.
And we are getting lots more smiles.
Finally it was time to head home. I'll be honest. I was so nervous about the flight. Sixteen hours on one plane with a one year old. Gulp.
The airline we used has bassinet attachments for families traveling with babies. We were told by everyone to get to the airport early because they are first come, first served. So we got to the airport in Addis FIVE hours before our flight took off and were told that there were no bassinet seats available. How could that be? We were literally the first people in line. My heart sank and then started galloping. Sixteen hours of holding this boy who has never been on a plane and has only known me for five days. Oh my.
Praise be to God because the Lord intervened on our behalf. When the flight attendant in our cabin saw our situation, she informed the man in the bulkhead seat (where the bassinet attaches) that he needed to move because I had a baby. He said he wanted the leg room of an aisle seat, and then a TOTAL STRANGER, who I think might have been an angel of the Lord, offered up his aisle seat and took my window seat so that I could have the bassinet. I could not believe it. So my mom and I did not get to sit together, but I did not have to keep Bradley in my lap for the whole flight. Thank you Hable, sweet flight attendant and thank you man I don't know for offering to move seats on a sixteen hour overnight flight. I love you both. Really and truly.
And this is how we spent the second leg of that flight. Dublin to D.C. The boy loves to be held.
And about 14 hours in.
After sixteen hours, we finally made our descent into Washington D.C. And as soon as those wheels touched down, my boy was a citizen. I was sobbing in my seat.
I could not believe that the Lord had carried us here to the finish line that is more like a starting line. He did it.
We made it through customs, and it was on to Charlotte.
Quick stop for dinner.
And then we hit the wall. Our LAST flight was canceled. We were a one hour hop from home and completely stuck. When they made the announcement, I looked at my mom and told her that I did not have the capacity to handle this. I had been awake for almost forty hours and traveling for over thirty. With a baby. I will spare you the HORRIBLE dealings we had with US Air because this is a happy post, but we ended up running (literally) onto a flight to Montgomery. And my CHAMPION family, who had been waiting to meet us at the Birmingham airport to celebrate Bradley's homecoming, hopped in their cars and flew down the interstate to Montgomery.
And there he was. The man who fought side by side with me to get our boy home.
I don't have a caption for this one.
Or this one.
But we were finally all three together.
Looking at his dad. Buddy, you don't even know how this man loves you.
So relieved to be home.
I wish I could tell you exactly what I was thinking here, but I don't know that I can.
I am just so humbled that Lord has seen fit to make this my story.
The road has been long and full of pitfalls and obstacles. It has not been the easy path I likely would have chosen for myself. But I am who I am because of what the Lord has done.
And He gave me to most wonderful support system.
Meeting his crazy Aunt BB.
Oh, how I love my family.
Nana and Big Mike
This woman prayed hard to get our boy home.
Uncle Dave and Aunt Farren.
And Bradley's namesake.
One of the best men I know.
And meeting his cousin Sydney.
Back with his dad.
And the woman behind the airport pictures, Jennifer, and her sweet Abigail.
This little man already has so many people who love him.
People who love him well.
I hope to get more out soon. But I make no guarantees. At least not for another few weeks!
With deep love,