Monday, June 29, 2015

Ethiopia Trip One: Travel

Soooooo, I posted about leaving for Ethiopia and promptly fell off the face of the planet for two weeks. Irresponsible, I know. But I promise there was good reason. The day after we landed back in the U.S. my sweet, sweet grandfather fell and ended up in the hospital. I left for South Carolina to be with him, and he passed away a few days later. It was an impossibly hard week. Umpa has been a rock and an unfailing source of love and encouragement for all of my thirty years on this earth. The hole he left behind will never be filled.

From his funeral on Friday afternoon, I drove back to Alabama to attend my brother-in-law's wedding on Saturday. Eight hours of driving after a funeral made for an incredibly long night. But the wedding was beautiful, and our family has grown by one very lovely lady.

So now, Adam and I are back home, and I FINALLY have time to unpack all that happened during our incredible week in Ethiopia. This will be several posts, and we will start today with our travel to the land where our son lives.

We left Birmingham on a Thursday morning. My dear friend, Courtney, drove us to the airport, dropped us off and we were on our way!
This is happening! 

We go to check in and find out that our first flight is delayed, which means we will miss our connection. Boo. After getting bumped to a later connection, we clear security, get breakfast and settle in to wait. Adam and I just keep looking at each other and saying some variation of, "Can you believe we are doing this?" Our flight finally takes off and we are officially ON OUR WAY TO MEET OUR SON.  What? We make our connection in Houston and arrive in D.C. After dinner at our hotel, we manage to get a few hours of sleep. My parents meet us in the lobby the next morning (they got in way late) and we are off to the airport. You know, the place where we will get on a plane to go meet our son. 

Getting ready to leave the hotel!! 

Waiting to check in. 
Oh, how I have waited to book a flight on this airline! 
 Checking in 
 All set! 
 Breakfast and good byes to family
 Walking to our gate
 Tickets to Ethiopia. 
Tickets with our names!! 

 On time departure! 
 So nervous and so, so excited. 
 Our home for the next 14 hours. 
 We have a long way to go. 
 Feet on the ground in Ethiopia! 
And I must add here that Adam and I were so nervous that we each only slept for about 45 minutes of  the fourteen hour flight. 
 Finally meeting Woudneh! 
He lives up to the hype. 
 Loading up to head to the hotel. 
Checked in at the hotel. Filling out some last minute paperwork (it never ends!).
Then we have two hours to shower, change and eat lunch before we leave to do the thing we have been waiting years to do: 

Day One post coming soon! And all photos were captured by my most beautiful mother and fabulous father. We are eternally grateful to both of them for coming with us to share in this experience and document it for us.

Here's what I can tell you about this week. It was the single most incredible experience of my life thus far. There were so many points along the way where I was tempted to give up. It was all just so hard. But I can tell you without any doubt at all that it was completely worth and that I would do it a thousand times over if it meant I could have my son. More soon! 


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

We Leave Tomorrow

We leave tomorrow.



I absolutely cannot believe it.

I've mentioned before that I am typically pretty difficult to frazzle. Years of being a middle school teacher have left me (usually) unflappable. You would not believe some of the things I heard over the years while having to maintain my composure as the responsible adult in the room. Well, I am pleased to report that all of that has GONE OUT THE WINDOW. I feel like I am losing my ever loving mind. There is so much to do, and I'm worried that I will miss some critical piece. Yikes!

Still, things do feel like they are coming together. My bag is mostly packed. Adam's things are laid out and ready for the suitcase. Yesterday I made a photo album of our family to leave with Bradley. We have snacks and our passports. We have printed copies of ALL THE FORMS. I need something good to read on the plane, though. It's the little things now.

It's so hard to believe that the last three plus years on this journey all come down to the next few days. We are about to meet the boy we have been falling in love with for a long, long time. And then we will go to court and he will legally be declared ours. Can this really be happening? Can we finally, actually be at the place where the stuff of dreams becomes the substance of reality? It feels impossible. And yet, here we are. I was telling the girls in our small group this week that I have arrived at a place where I am so, SO thankful to the Lord for each piece of this journey. I am not the same woman who filled out that application on April 10, 2012. He has stretched me and grown me. He has changed me. And most importantly, He has stayed with me. No matter how hard I tried to fight Him off, He stayed. And through that I have learned that this is who God is. He is the God who stays. He is faithful to us when we are faithless before Him. And I am more aware of that now than I ever have been before.

So we are about to go and adopt this precious boy. This precious boy whom God has been saving for us. And we are ready.

But before we go, I have one more thing to ask of you. Is there a Scripture that you love? Something that speaks to you? Encourages you? Calms you? Motivates you? Gives you peace? Makes you brave?

If you have a Scripture like that, I would to hear it. Please leave a comment below or on Facebook. We will take all of the God-centered encouragement we can get our hands on.

I'm going to do my best to post something from Ethiopia each day. It might be here or on Facebook or on Instagram. I'll do my best to bring you all on this awesome, beautiful, redemptive journey with us.

Love to you all.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Questions

So we leave this week {THIS WEEK} to go to Ethiopia and meet our son {OUR SON} for the very first time. Ummmm.... Is this real? Over the last couple of weeks I have started to make preparations: laying out clothes, making sure we have the right documents, finding our passports, hugging Daisy a lot, sitting in Bradley's room staring at the wall, crying. You know. The essentials.

And as we have drawn ever closer to our travel date, I have been getting some questions:

-How are you feeling?
-What are you thinking?
-Can you believe it?
-Are you ready?
-Are you packed?
-What are you most excited about?
-What are you most scared of?

All very legitimate questions. So I thought I would try to take some time to answer them here.

1. How are you feeling?

You with me? This is one of those times when I feel so overwhelmed that the best course of action seems to be to sit down and read a book. A whole one. In one day. Like I did yesterday. 

2. What are you thinking? 

There are just so many things to think about. Logistical things. Emotional things. Spiritual things. Physical things. Legal things. Safety things. Tear your heart out things. It's finally happening things. Swept away by joy things. Mom things. Will he like me things. 

3. Can you believe it? 

I really can't. Really. I have wanted to be a mom for so long. Years. Lots of them. And it is finally happening. In a few days we will fly to the other side of the world and meet a boy who has held our hearts for years. And he doesn't even know it. We have prayed for him, cried for him, hoped for him, fought for him. And he has no idea who we are. We have filled out every form under the sun, proved to two governments on two different continents that we are fit to be parents. We have waited and waited and waited. And now, we get to hold our boy. We get to go to court, stand before a judge, and say "Yes. We choose him. We understand all that this means and we know it can never be undone. Yes. We want him. We will want him forever." 
No, I can't believe it. 

4. Are you ready? 


5. Are you packed? 

Ummmm...No. Soon though, I think! Packing has taken over the guest room with outfits laid out together, snacks for the flight and travel sized everything. 
My goal is to be packed before we leave for the airport. 
I feel good about it. 

6. What are you most excited about?

All of it. But two things more than the others. First, I cannot wait to hold my son {MY SON}. My arms and heart have ached for so long because this piece has been missing. And in less than a week, I will know what it is like to hold my own child. I can't believe it's real. Secondly, I am so excited for court. Once we do that, our adoption decree is issued, and it is FINAL. He is legally ours. On paper. Done. 
Also, at that point I can finally share his beautiful face with all of YOU! 

7. What are you most scared of? 

This is a tough question, but also a REALLY good one. Again, there are two things. First, I'm afraid that Bradley might not like me. I know that sounds super lame. He's a baby. BUT I have FALLEN IN LOVE with this boy, and (as I mentioned before) he does not know who I am. So that makes me nervous. The second thing is the big one. I am terrified of leaving him. The idea alone if ripping me apart. I cannot imagine meeting my son and then having to leave him, even just for a few weeks. I am praying that by some miracle, I will not have to. That I will be allowed to stay and spend time with my boy, but I just don't know. So if you feel like praying and want to add that to your list, I would be most grateful. 

So those are the questions I have been getting lately! Some silly and some pretty serious, but all good ones! Do you have any others? I'd love to answer them. But for now, I need to get back to wrangling our suitcases.

Much love,

Monday, June 1, 2015

Becoming a Bold Pray-er

If you are at all like me, then there might be times in your life when you are afraid to pray. It sounds ridiculous, but I found myself feeling that way more than once on this journey to our son. You see, I had begged God to make me a mother for so long -- years-- and it didn't appear to be happening. 

The result, for me for awhile, was a severely weakened prayer life. 

I knew that God was hearing me, but I didn't see anything happening. So over the course of months and then years, my prayers became quieter. More timid. Weaker. Sometimes they were barely whispers. 

I reasoned with myself that if I wasn't really asking for anything major, then I wouldn't be disappointed when nothing major happened. Oh, how I cringe when typing that truth for you all to see. But, if my thinking is right, then maybe you, too, have felt this way at some point. You may feel that it is somehow safer to pray wimpy little prayers that don't really require God to demonstrate His mighty power.

Well, I want to encourage you (as a rehabilitated prayer wimp myself) to let that go. I beg you to let it go. 

We serve a great, BIG, mighty God. He designed and created the entire universe. He holds planets in orbit and still has time to paint the flowers. All of these details, literally EVERYTHING WE SEE, are resting in the palm of His righteous hand. And this very same God is holding you and me. More than that, He actually knows us. Knows the desires and longings of our hearts. Knows when we hurt and when we triumph. But most importantly, He knows what is the very best for us AND HE WANTS THE VERY BEST FOR US. 

The problem is that sometimes my best and God's best are not the same (NOTE: His best is always better than mine). So when my prayers aren't being answered in the way I feel they should be, I like to throw a little pity party or maybe a temper tantrum. I'm too quick to feel ignored, forgotten or left behind. I'm too quick to forget that the Lord can see so much more than I will ever be able to and that He alone is WORTHY of my trust. 

I look at our journey to Bradley, and there is a part of me that wants to shout: COULDN'T THIS HAVE GONE A LITTLE FASTER, LORD? I MEAN, WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS SWEET CHILD FOR MORE THAN THREE YEARS! 

Very gracious, no?

That part of me is inclined to feel angry, frustrated and impatient with what God is doing in my life. But then I look at who I am now compared to who I was when we started down this road. And as I look back down the path, I see that the Lord has used this incredible this called adoption to help me see Him more clearly than I ever have. 

He took away every other support I could have managed to prop myself up on till only He remained. And for a good, long while I retreated into that prayer wimpy-ness. I didn't want to be hurt by another "No" from God. 

But little by little, bit by bit, the Lord restored my faith, my trust in Him, my {now} rock solid belief that He is exactly who He says He is. Through that, I have come to learn that I can ask BIG things of my BIG God. He can handle it. In fact, I rather think He delights in it when we ask for something enormous. Why? IT SHOWS THAT WE BELIEVE HE CAN DO IT. 

What better demonstration of trust in someone than to ask that person for help? When I am carrying something that is too heavy for me and I start to lose my grip, I call out to Adam and beg him to get his rear end over here and help me. Why do I do that? He is physically FAR more powerful than I am. I trust in his ability to carry something that is too heavy for me. When I would type emails to parents and I wanted to make sure my words and tone were right, I would ask Anne Carter, the other English teacher on the hall. Why? I trust her ability to advise me. 

So when I have a problem that is far to big for me, doesn't it stand to reason that I should go the the One who is INFINITELY more powerful and more able than I could ever be? Not only that, but I also know that He loves me and will do what is best for me. 

This newfound prayer boldness does come with a catch, though. Bold praying does not guarantee the result you want. Not at all. But when we absolutely trust the One we are asking, we can rest confidently that a "No" is just the placeholder for a bigger and better "Yes." God is not out to crush us or string us along with false hope. He LONGS to be gracious to us, but He also knows more than we do. And so we have to trust that His answers, whatever they may be, are coming from a place of love. 

And ask others to pray with you and for you. I could not count the number of people who have prayed for us at different points along this road. Our families, our small group, spiritual mentors, friends. The list could go on forever. Be bold in asking people to surround you with prayer. I have seen the most amazing things happen when I have been brave enough to really put our needs out there and specifically ask for prayer. Look HERE to see what I mean. It's really quite unbelievable. 

So I want to encourage you to press in and press on if you are praying through something tough. Hang in there and stay faithful. God is not ignoring you. He has not abandoned you. He is working all things together for your good. Seek His face and you will find Him. 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him."
Matthew 7:7-11
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