Update on Mom & Son – Welcome to the Family, Asher

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It’s been basically two months to the date since we were first able to meet our son, affectionately known on the Internet as Baby T. (I prefer T-Rex, but that’s just because I will nickname the heck out of anybody: T-Rex, T-Bone, T-Dog…you get the point.)

However, we would like to officially let the world know that we have decided to name him Asher. His full name will include his Ethiopian name as his middle name: Asher Terefe Ford. (My buddy Jake is already calling him ATF in the mold of RG3, the former Heisman trophy winner, Robert Giffin, III.) We’ll share more on the choosing of this name at a later date, I’m sure.

Since we first met Asher back in June, a lot has transpired and I have been commissioned to provide an update, the reason of which you’ll understand as I explain our current situation.

Today marks the 12th day that Liza and I have been separated.  She left for Africa on July 30th to live side by side with our son, and has been a single mom with him in a third world country ever since. More on that in a second, too.

To play catchup, Liza has blogged about the process over our on other site, AddictedtoSaving.com, so if you’ve missed out on some of the backstory:

This circles us back to where we currently stand. Liza has been in Ethiopia since July 30th, struggling to do her best to be a mom.

One of the reasons I’m writing this blog update and not her is because she is absolutely gassed. Some of you know this about my wife, but that girl could sleep 12 hours a day if she didn’t have other responsibilities. Whereas I can get by pretty soundly on 6-7 hours, Liza realistically needs about 9 to function on all cylinders.

I think those days are over.

It wouldn’t be so bad if she were here. But she spent the first 10 days in a Guest House in the capital city of Addis Ababa, and the conditions weren’t the best. For those of you who don’t know what a Guest House is, think of it as a reality show where a whole bunch of people live in one three or four story house, share bathrooms, and try to get along as best as possible. The difference is, this reality show takes place in a third world country where you’re behind a concrete wall with barbed wire on the top, you dare not drink the local water or eat a ton of local food (I speak from experience), and in Liza’s case, her room smelled like raw sewage all the time. And unfortunately, her Guest House had fleas and the mosquitoes were bad, which aren’t necessarily the Guest’s House fault, but has made for a very bad experience there. When you factor in trying to be a first time mom with an institutionalized 10 month old in a third world country all by yourself – well, I’m sure you can see how that might be a little trying.

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(Liza’s view from her room at the Guest House; notice all the cows which roam freely in the streets of Addis Ababa)

Not only that, but in addition to the fleas and mosquitoes, our son has ringworm and absolutely hates going into or coming out of sleep. Liza can tell he’s exhausted, but with all the kid has been through and will continue to go through until he adjusts to his life here in the States, it’s understandable that he’s pretty upset.

Adoptive children who have been institutionalized often struggle with conditions like sensory disorders, and we think Asher is a prime candidate. When you live in an orphanage, you learn to cope with your situation as best you know how. While the caregivers were amazing at his orphanage (foster home, they call it), and we know they cared for Asher very much, with 50 children and only a handful of workers, there’s only so much they can do.

So Liza is not only learning to be a first time parent in a third world country by herself, but she’s dealing with the sensory issues that Asher seems to have, as well as the attachment issues that come in the adoptive child/parent relationship. Even simple things like taking a shower or going to the bathroom become tougher, because if she leaves the room while he’s in his crib even for a second, in his mind, she’s broken trust. He doesn’t understand that she’s coming back, and that for the rest of his life, she will always, always be there for him. He doesn’t know that he’ll never have to worry about being abandoned again, and that when he cries, she’ll be there to sooth him every single time. He also doesn’t understand what it’s like to have a male figure in his life of any consequence, which is the distinct privilege I now have, just as soon as we can get him home. But since the day we saw his face in an email, he has been my son, and I have prayed for him every day of my life since that moment.

He just doesn’t understand any of that yet.

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(This was mom and Asher back in June at his orphanage. Some of the Ethiopian women are asking if Asher is Liza’s biological mom. I guess with those big brown eyes and the olive skin tone of my wife, I can see it.  Once they see the pasty white skin of Dad, however…)

Okay, how about some good news?

  • He is pretty smart. He’s picking up on momma’s lessons, and is even saying “mommamommamomma” through his broken baby jibberish. Isn’t it interesting that you don’t really need an interpreter with a baby, no matter what country you’re in!
  • He is also saying “dadadada,” which I’m pretty sure is just because he’s a baby and that’s what babies do, but Mom has been showing him pictures of me, so let’s hope he makes the connection.
  • He is bonding with Mom. He looks anxiously for her when he’s waking up or in his pack ‘n play from a nap. And when Liza has been with some other adoptive mommas there, and has left him for a bathroom break, according to another mom, “He lights up when you walk in a room.”

That last one brought me tears. Actually, there have been a lot of tears from me, and a lot “God, please help her”‘s as well. But this, too, shall pass. And soon, we can experience all the joys of parenthood together, with American food, air conditioning, bug and pest control bills, and showers. Nice, hot showers, which I know she has missed.

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(Did I mention Asher was teething?)

Many have asked, “How long will she be there?” Well, we’re not sure. But here is what we’re hoping for, and here is the prayer that you can pray for us.

On August 15th, the person who found Asher is supposed to appear before the Embassy. We know that he lives a far way away, so just getting him to the appointment is very much in doubt. But we really need him to appear when he is supposed to. If he does, and if everything checks out, then we believe she and Asher will have a very good chance at coming home shortly after that. This would be a miracle, because we both thought it would take much longer. I can’t tell you how vital it is that the Finder testify on the 15th at 7:30 a.m. That will mean it’s like 12:30 am EST here in the States, but I will be up praying!!!

There is another piece of great news I should share. After following Liza’s journey on Facebook, a friend of ours from college who, along with his wife, adopted a child a couple years ago, decide to do one of the most generous acts of kindness ever – he redeemed some Amex points from his business travel and prepaid for Liza and Asher to spend 8 nights in the Sheraton! Words don’t adequately convey the emotion of relief, thanks, and gratitude I have for this friend’s act of generosity. It was an answer to prayer, quite frankly, and Liza and Asher will be in the Sheraton until the 16th, which just happens to be the day after the Finder is supposed to appear. Hopefully you see why that’s such an important date! (In case you were wondering, this ain’t the Motel 6 either. This gift was one of abundance.)
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(baby Asher in his new surroundings at the Sheraton Hotel)

That’s were we stand. I can’t tell you how amazing God has been in His faithfulness through the encouragement and support of the men and women He created. Skeptics often talk about people doing all the work, and believers often talk about God doing all the work. The truth is, BOTH parties are doing the work, hand in hand, in a mystery of collaboration made possible by one, yet fulfilled by another. I don’t pretend to understand it, but understanding how something works usually isn’t nearly as important as simply understanding that it does.

So thank you to everyone who has prayed, given financially, given of their time or other physical resources, or have just told us you love us. It means everything, and we feel privileged to know how many people genuinely care for us. It’s a blessing that not everyone gets, and we don’t want to ever take it for granted.

Update from Ethiopia

Liza recently updated our adoption journey over on Addicted to Saving which you can read about HERE, but we thought an update would also be appropriate on our adoption blog to let you know of the latest.

Liza and I were reunited Sunday evening at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after going two weeks bereft of each other’s presence. I helped co-lead a Man Up Missions Trip for the past two weeks in Uganda and our team had a layover in Addis. Instead of continuing on with the team, I met my driver Tesfaye at the airport and have been staying in a Guest House since then. I thank God Liza was able to navigate an international flight to a third world country all on her own, and when she saw me Sunday night, we embraced and she cried tears of relief.  How sweet those tears were to me!

We met our sweet T-Rex (Baby T, T Dog, T Bone, Little T, whatever nickname suits the moment) yesterday, and it was overwhelming to say the least.

Our reaction as Baby T-Rex is coming out with Sister, the foster home caretaker. Thanks Ranell for the pic!

If you know our history, you know it’s been a broken road filled with both pitfalls and potholes, wrought with many failures from a human perspective. But thanks be to God (iggsy ah buh hare yimMUSKin in Amharic, the local language), He has a predetermined path of good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), and what appears to be human heartbreak and pain is, from His vantage point, a scene of redemption and renewal, brought about by a refining fire that makes both us and Him look good in the end.

Today was our second day with our little guy, and we couldn’t be more encouraged!  He was far more responsive than yesterday, and we found out the little dude knows how to army crawl!  We laid him on his back so he could finish his milk, and to our surprise he rolled over, then sure enough, crawled over (quite slowly) to his keys-toy we brought for him.  What a sight. It’s hard to put into words our emotions, but I suppose those of you who are parents don’t need an explanation anyhow. You get it.

We met with our attorney yesterday and he seems to feel good about getting us into the judge on Thursday or Friday. We sure hope it’s the case, and are really believing in faith that it will happen. Since I am generally quite analytical, rational, and reasonable about my religious convictions, faith is sometimes very hard for me.  But having spent two weeks in Uganda and a few days here in Ethiopia, I’ve been greatly encouraged by the amount of pure faith my brothers and sisters have in an Almighty God to accomplish His will on earth. We know that He is a Father to the fatherless, and therefore have confidence that we are acting in accordance with His own heart.

For those who are praying people, we ask for your continued prayers and support as the judge received our request today, and should issue her decision sometime tomorrow. We are believing for a favorable outcome.

Preliminary MOWCYA Court Date June 4th

We would love prayers this week. This Tuesday, June 4th, Baby T’s preliminary MOWCYA court date will occur.  The MOWCYA court date is when the Ethiopian courts research the child’s history and interview his or her living relatives or the finder for him or her if they were abandoned.  Typically, when the child passes MOWCYA court, the adoptive families will travel to Ethiopia for their court date approximately one month later.  Because Jeff will be meeting Baby T after June 4th while he is in Africa, we are petitioning the court to see if they will grant us an earlier court date to coincide with when Jeff is there.  And, I would then fly out last minute to meet Jeff in Africa for the court date.

I have been told that the judge is very fair by a friend of mine who is very active and knowledgeable in Ethiopian adoptions.  So my hope is that on June 4th, the judge will grant us an earlier date versus have Jeff fly home from Africa and then just a few weeks later for us to book tickets and go to Africa for our first court date.  This would save us money since Jeff will already be in Africa.  And it would save Jeff from traveling to Africa 3 times in one year. (Although, knowing him, he would really enjoy that.)

My hope is that on June 4th, once I wake up, I will know if we passed preliminary court and if we have an early court date.  That way, I can scramble to book a flight out for me and then adjust Jeff return flight from Ethiopia.

So – specific prayer requests will be that we pass MOWCYA court and that the judge grants us an earlier date.  Also, please pray that our agency has their act together. J I’m not saying they do or they don’t. But I do know that in order for this to occur, our agency will really need to be on top of paperwork and they will need to communicate with us in a timely manner.

I will keep you posted once I know what is going on.  Although, you may know even without me updating this blog because I will be freaking out trying to figure out how to plan a trip to Africa by myself and then also handle all of the responsibilities here on the homefront.  God has it all under control though and I am trying to rest in that assurance right now.

Also – many of you have asked if we get to bring Baby T home after court.  We do not.  After we pass court, Ethiopia deems the child as ours.  However, we then need to wait to clear embassy and have the US tell us that the child is ours.  The process from court to embassy typically takes around 1- 2 months.  I’ve heard stories where it has taken four weeks but I have also heard stories where it has taken over a year.  So no, he will not come home after court.  But hopefully within a couple of months later he will.

Update Time – Baby T

We have news! I have been sitting on this news for a long time. In fact, if Jeff had his way, we would have shared this news by now. I guess this time around, I’m just looking at everything so differently and in such a reserved manner. So as you read this, please do not feel offended or slighted that this news is coming to you now. I really wanted time to process everything. If you are unaware of why I am so reserved right now, feel free to read some of the older posts on this blog and you will see that we’ve had quite a rocky road in our adoption process thus far.

Our news is exciting though. Jeff and I have accepted the referral for a 9 month old boy. He is cute and according to his paperwork, looks very healthy. We call him “Baby T” or Jeff will occasionally call him “T-Rex”. Just two weeks ago, our agency began sending us weekly updates on him. We were waiting for these updates for a while. And now that they have begun, the updates are helping me attach to him as well as to attach to the fact that we are now going through our third adoption process in just 12 months.

Many of you know that Jeff is going to Uganda with Man Up. On his way back, he is stopping in Ethiopia to see “Baby T” and Jeff is over the moon about this. We also have a preliminary court date for Baby T set. We do not travel for this court date. However, if all goes well, we should have our court date in July.

We do not bring Baby T home during our first trip. After our court date, we will return home and wait to go through the embassy process. This can take anywhere from 6 weeks – 6 months. I’ve seen awesome scenarios and I’ve also seen horrible scenarios. Ideally I would like Baby T home before he turns one, but I see that to be next to impossible. So instead, I’m just focusing on getting him home.

We do thank all of you for your prayers this past year. Since we started the adoption process, we have had some great ups and some great downs but it was comforting to know that we had friends thinking and praying for us across the country through everything. To the two women that stopped me in church this past Sunday (Mother’s Day), I thank you for your kind words. It’s easy for non-moms and heartbroken moms to be forgotten on Mother’s Day and I appreciated your kind words and to know that I was on your hearts.

I would ask that you please keep us in your prayers now. We have major hurdles to cross still. Pray that paperwork moves quickly from our agency to government officials and vice versa. Pray that there are no mistakes with paperwork. Pray for Baby T that he would remain healthy and remain illness free. And pray for Jeff and I as we are going through a pile of paperwork that was placed on our laps today (it will require hundreds of dollars and countless forms, doctors appointments and signatures to be obtained) that has overwhelmed us to the core. Pray that we can persevere.

I will do my best to be more “present” on this blog keeping you all updated. It’s funny… I spend at least 60 hours a week blogging on Addicted to Saving and yet writing just one blog post here takes me months and months. I will do my best to keep you informed as we continue through this adoption process.

The “Stuck Tour” Coming to a City Near You

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I posted this over on Addicted to Saving already, so excuse me for having it on the web twice. We haven’t updated this blog in a while, primarily because there hasn’t been any news. Just waiting.

I guess that’s why it’s appropriate that I blog about what Jeff and I will be doing this weekend. Hope you can come see us or help out in a way you best see fit.

The below blog post first appeared on Addicted to Saving.

I recently heard about the documentary, Stuck, from the people over at BothEndsBurning. Since my husband and I have experienced the heartache of the adoptive process first hand, we both feel like we have a social responsibility to let others know about this issue.

The average international adoption takes 896 days and $28,000 to complete, and Stuck was produced to bring awareness to these inevitable challenges that adoptive couples face. The Stuck Tour has recently launched and they will be visiting 60 cities in 80 days with the hopes of gathering 1 million signatures asking Congress/global leaders/President Obama to take specific actions to change the landscape of adoption. This petition will be hand carried to members of Congress in the Step Forward for Orphans March in Washington, D.C., on May 17.

Once you look into this issue yourself, if you agree with the mission of helping bring adoptive families together, then there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Sign the Petition HERE. It will take you about 20 seconds to sign your name to this petition, but could make a lasting impact in bringing forever families together. **NOTE** When you sign the petition, you may get asked to sign another petition that you DO NOT agree with. This is because those entities have paid to have their petition appear and are in no way affiliated with the Stuck campaign.
  • If you’re viewing this on your mobile phone, then text ORPHANS to 67463 and you will be taken directly to the BothEndsBurning site to sign the petition.
  • Check out when and where the Stuck Tour will be in your area and plan to watch the movie. **FLORIDA FOLKS** Stuckwill be in the following locations this week:
    • Jacksonville: Tuesday, March 5th
    • Orlando: Wednesday, March 6th
    • Miami: Thursday, March 7th
    • Tampa: Saturday, March 9th
    • Tickets and full tour schedule may be purchased/viewed HERE.
  • If you live in the Tampa area, hubby and I will be at the Tampa premier of Stuck helping out with the petitions! We would love to have you come by and say hello. Tickets are only $15 and the showing will be held at Muvico Centro Ybor 20.
  • Volunteer like we did! Just head over to the VOLUNTEER page at BothEndsBurning and submit your information to help out with the Stuck Tour when they roll into your city.

I want to thank you in advance for all who have give us expressions of encouragement in our adoption process; I can’t repay you for your kindness. I would love it if you would join us in making some waves in Washington by Signing the Petition or checking out Stuck in your area. **NOTE** When you sign the petition, you may get asked to sign another petition that you DO NOT agree with. This is because those entities have paid to have their petition appear and are in no way affiliated with the Stuck campaign. :)

You can whet your appetite with the trailer below.

2012 Recap and Updates – 7 Less Orphans in the World

What is in a year? Obviously a year consists of 365 days or 8,760 hours or 525,600 minutes. It is interesting how although 8,760 hours seems like a long time, time actually flies by. I can honestly say that looking back this past year, I am overwhelmed with just how much we have accomplished and then at the same time, how little we have accomplished. It was just one of those years where I look back and just pray that God knows what He is doing.

We started our adoption blog as an attempt to draw awareness to the hundreds of thousands of orphans across the world. Along with that, we wanted to show you a real life picture of what adoption is like for adoptive parents. In some ways, I think we did a good job of showing the “reality” of adoption. In other ways, I think that we missed the boat on really highlighting and raising awareness on orphans. I guess that will be my New Year’s resolution for year 2013. (Although, I hate resolutions because I very seldom stick with them. )
Before recapping the year Jeff & I got to experience, I am SO excited because many of our dear friends have been able to experience the joys of adoption.

 

  • J & J adopted and brought home the most adorable one year old from Ethiopia. Jeff and I are SO thankful for adoption – even though it hasn’t exactly “worked” for us yet – if it wasn’t for adoption, we might never have become friends with this awesome couple. I can honestly say that I forsee being in their life for as long as they let us.
  • W & K were able to adopt a baby girl domestically. Their story of perseverance is amazing. Honestly, the fact that they continued pursuing adoption after all of their disappointments is such an encouragement to me.
  • S & D were able to adopt a baby girl domestically. Yet another story of perseverance through all of life’s challenges. I was able to give them the name of the domestic agency we were using this summer. Their baby girl was born last week. Jeff reminded me last week that had we not used our domestic agency, they might not have been able to adopt this baby. An example of God’s goodness even through our disappointments.
  • K& J are in the midst of adopting siblings from Ghana. We were honored to be able to go out to dinner with them the same day they received their referral. In the adoption world, receiving and accepting a referral is truly an amazing day. Jeff and I were so blessed by their excitement and we are praying for their adoption process to go through quickly and smoothly.
  • M & S were able to bring a one year old boy home from Ethiopia. Honestly, this couple is yet another example of perseverance. They FOUGHT to bring their child home. We are so happy for them.
  • D & N are in the midst of adopting a beautiful 10 year old girl from Ethiopia. It has been so fun to watch God work on their lives as He pointed them to the perfect match for their family.
  • **UPDATE** I also remembered W & S, who brought home two beautiful babies from Ethiopia. After learning their story (we are not super close with them, but have got to know them over Facebook!), we see them as another example of perseverance and not quitting before the miracle of adoption happens.

And I am sure there are more stories that I am forgetting! But just from our circle of friends, we have watched 7 9 children/babies go from being orphans to adopted (or almost adopted) within the past year

For Jeff and I, obviously, you know that our personal adoption journey has had its fair share of difficulties thus far. To recap our year in a nutshell:

We started off 2012 already in the midst of adopting two children with America World Adoption Agency – one in Ethiopia & one in Haiti. The wait time to bring our children home is approximately 2 years for each agency.

In May 2012, we added a third adoption to our plans as a local mother chose us to adopt her baby girl once she was born in August.  We scrambled to begin fundraising. You might remember Jeff’s 60k in 60 days post. Somehow knowing that we would have to spend roughly $30,000 PER adoption was a bit overwhelming and pushed us to fundraise. Through fundraising, selling bracelets from Haiti, writing and obtaining grants, selling household items we didn’t use and a garage sale (we earned $2,500 at the garage sale alone!!) we were able to accrue a tiny bit over $14,000. Such an amazing blessing.

In June 2012, we started praying and researching about whether to go forward with our Haiti adoption due to the political unrest and international adoption changes going on in Haiti, and ultimately decided that because of things outside our control, it would not be wise to move forward.

In July 2012, as we were awaiting the birth of the baby girl, our birth mom ended up switching from our agency to a different agency. We were left heartbroken. I have two praises from this situation. First – the birth mom ended up placing the baby with the new couple. And secondly – Jeff and I were able to recoup $5,000 of the $6,000 from the new agency. This almost never happens. So Jeff and I were extremely thankful.

August 2012, Jeff also went on a mission trip to Ethiopia and Uganda and while there, we accepted a referral for a baby boy named Kiya in Ethiopia. This was with a different agency from Ethiopia. We now had two simultaneous Ethiopian adoptions going on with separate agencies. Because of all of the money we raised over the summer, we were able to wire $18,000 to the new agency needed to accept the referral of Kiya.

September 2012, Jeff and I were informed that Kiya died of an upper respiratory infection. Our lives were rocked and we were both devastated. You can read Jeff’s thoughts HERE and my thoughts HERE.

September – November… let’s just say, this fall/winter has been rough. I still believe and KNOW that God wants us to adopt. He has put the passion in our hearts to take in an orphan and I believe that someday, He will bless that passion. During these months, we took ourselves off of our new agencies’ waiting list giving ourselves time to process and get through all of the disappointments of this past year.

November – Jeff & I were able to hear Lauren Dungy speak (twice) as well as Tony Dungy speak. Their adoption stories are just downright inspiring. I was particularly blessed by my conversation with Lauren Dungy. She has experienced the ups and downs of adoption and it was refreshing to hear her tell Jeff and I that she has walked in our shoes.

December – we added ourselves back onto our new agencies’ waiting list. We have been told we are first in line for a referral so we are waiting.

So – we are in line and waiting to adopt Ethiopian children with two agencies. Our wait time with AWAA (the agency we signed up with over a year ago) is probably around 2 years still. We are now number 54 on the unofficial waiting list. Our wait time with our new agency is literally day to day. We are next in line to receive a referral. And so we wait.

Jeff and I wanted to thank all of you for your support this past year. We have felt your prayers. We have read all of your emails and cards.  We are also so thankful for all of the donations we have received from you. We have received donations from friends, family and complete strangers. And we are thankful for each and every penny. Because of you, we were able to accept the referral of Kiya this past September. We were literally given 24 hours’ notice to wire $18,000 to our adoption agency. We would not have been able to do this without your help. Even though Kiya passed away, the money will be applied to our new referral and there is a huge weight off of our shoulders to know that those funds are taken care of. From a financial standpoint, our adoption with AWAA and our adoption with our new agency will cost between $28,100 – $38,000 per agency per child.  (If you are curious to see the financial breakdown of Ethiopian adoptions, go HERE).  We have already submitted $16,500 towards our AWAA and $18,000 towards our new adoption. When I focus on the fact that there are still funds that Jeff and I will have to come up with, I get overwhelmed. But I know that God will provide and while I am overwhelmed, I am so grateful we have been able to pay over $34,500 towards our two adoptions thus far.

So, I can’t say that I have enjoyed this past year. But I have been so blessed by the kindness and support you all have shown us. I am also so happy for all of our friends who are in the midst of or have completed their adoptions.  There are seven less orphans in the world because of the obedience of our friends.

If you are feeling led to adopt or if you have questions regarding domestic adoptions or international adoptions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment and Jeff and I will do our best to point you to resources that will help you in your journey.

Overcoming

It’s been harder to keep up with this blog than we initially imagined. Part of that is because life is busy – AddictedtoSaving.com sees a ton of traffic this time of year, and it puts our deal-finding skills to the test.  Imagine Black Friday intensity for about three weeks straight, and we’re still in the thick of it now.

But part of it has been the unexpected struggle of groping our way through the darkness of unanticipated and previously unimaginable grief.  Grief at losing our Florida adoption, grief at losing our son Kiya – though we only knew him at a distance, he was ours – and grief from dealing with the reality of potentially never having a biological child.

We have tried to move forward, but until recently, our emotional quotient was lagging far behind our intellectual capacities.  We know in our minds that God wants us to adopt, both from Scripture and as He personally works on each of our hearts.  But the feelings of loss and grief in our can’t-put-a-finger-on-it souls has prevented us from stepping forward in any substantial way.

I have learned a lot about what it means to be a husband through all this, and admittedly, I have failed. I haven’t always responded the best to Liza, and we haven’t even always been on the same page. But I suppose that’s what marriage is.  Laying down your life for another isn’t exactly normal. We’re called to do it though, and it starts with me as the leader of my home. Dear God, give me the grace to daily put myself under your authority; it’s always better there anyway.

Despite the struggle, we’ve had some wonderful experiences in the last couple of months.  We were first able to attend a fundraiser for the Bay Area Pregnancy Center where we heard and got to meet Lauren Dungy, wife of Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy.  Afterwards we spoke with her and she became a shoulder to cry on for Liza, so much of this being fresh in our hearts and minds. Two weeks later we got to meet her husband Tony at our church [pictured above], which was holding a fundraiser for our Agape Fund, designed to help adoptive and foster families offset the cost of bringing a new child into the home.

We also had the great joy of seeing our friends Jason and Janna bring home their adopted son Will from Ethiopia. Jason had gone to Ethiopia with his brother to pick up Will while Janna stayed home and took care of their two week old (how’s that for timing!); this picture is Janna’s first time meeting Will, and absolutely broke hearts all around.

These little nuggets of goodness help us keep our eyes on the prize. Our pastor recently noted that the great men and women in history, those like Abraham Lincoln, the Apostle Paul, and Mother Theresa, don’t imbue our respect and admiration because they lived lives of extravagance and luxury.  We marvel at the stamp they left on human history precisely because they endured and overcame struggle, not because they avoided it.

Another friend of mine, Mitch, is on his way to Ethiopia literally as I type this blog entry – probably over the Mediterranean or the darkness of the Sahara, as he and his wife are picking up their son Z.  Although the details are different, he has his own unique story of heartache and adversity, and wondered for a long time whether or not he’d ever bring Z home. I got to meet his son while on our Man Up Missions Trip in Ethiopia last August, and it left an indelible imprint on my mind of what courageous perseverance actually looks like in real life.

Recently as I was praying to God about our circumstances, He brought to mind the following Scripture in Revelation 3:21:

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

That’s where we’re at right now – Overcoming. And because Christ lives in us, we have at our disposal the immeasurable power of God; what a thought, right? The One who Overcame death and conquered the grave with majestic power also enables us to Overcome.

Certainly there are days when we choose to carry this burden alone, days when the grief is far greater than the hope. But sand won’t turn into a pearl without pressure, wine won’t flow unless a grape is squeezed, and Jesus had to die that we might live. Anything worth having is worth waiting for. So we wait – and pray for the very strength of God to Overcome as we do.

Back to Life, Back to Reality

(The picture above is I-75. This is what we saw for four hours as we drove from Tampa to Atlanta.)

Considering how much time has gone by since my last post, I knew that I had to update our blog to let you all know that we are alive and well.  A month has gone by since we learned that the baby boy we were adopting had died.  Time flies usually when you are having fun but also when you are in the midst of wondering how you are supposed to get through each day.

I wanted to thank all of our friends who have left such kind comments on our adoption blog, on our facebook pages, via email, through voice messages and via mail.  Your words have encouraged me.  I am such an introverted person that after I poured out my thoughts in my post about Kiya, I really didn’t have much left to say.  So, while I haven’t responded to any emails or to your comments, please know that your words have meant the world to me and have given me hope through some of the darkness.

What I have learned these past four months as we lost our domestic adoption and then lost our little Kiya is that our story is not unique.  While maybe many couples do not lose both an adoption to fraud and then a second adoption to death within four months like us, we are not the first couple to encounter such loss so dramatically.  And some of the stories you all have shared with me are even more devastating than ours.  If you are reading our adoption blog and in the midst of turmoil, I do want to encourage you and tell you that you are not alone.  Your thoughts, your situation, your loss, others have experienced it.  Grieve your situation and grieve your loss.  And know that others have walked a similar road to yours and have overcome it.

I have to admit that I have struggled with hope this past month.  Or should I say, the lack of hope.   I also struggle with figuring out what the heck God is trying to show us.  But I have seen that God has sustained us through this time.  Our marriage is still strong.   Our families are healthy.  We have a roof over our heads.  Every morning and night (at 6 am and 6 pm) we have two dogs and a cat who are super annoying hyper until we feed them.  We still have my frugal blog that needs to be attended to every. single. minute. of the day.  Life has to be continued and I’m thankful for that.

Jeff and I had an amazing 4 day reprieve of adoption talk earlier this month when we went to a blogging conference I had scheduled on the calendar for the past 10 months.  We went to Atlanta.  It was my bright idea to drive there to save money (you can see from the picture above that our drive was very relaxing – please note my sarcasm).   Despite the torrential rain that we drove through for about 4 of the 8 hours enroute to Atlanta, our trip was refreshing.  It was so refreshing that I realized on our drive back that not once did we talk about adoption while there.  Instead, we game planned about my blog Addicted to Saving and tried to figure out how to grow it and work smarter (smarter for us means less – 10 hour days, 6 days a week kills me).  My savings blog has grown entirely organically.  It started in 2009 and now here we are in 2012 and at the blogging conference we finally learned what SEO means and how it works.  So for Jeff & I, the conference was enlightening and so much fun.  We were a team tackling a challenge (learning what the heck everyone was talking about and why the heck we didn’t already know everything) and we came back from the conference exhausted and yet refreshed as we had new goals for ourselves and our business.

Within 36 hours of being back in town, our minds did go back to adoption thoughts and talks.  I guess the song that goes “back to life, back to reality, back to the hear and now yeah” is appropriate.

If you are reading this wondering whether we have “new” adoption news, we don’t.  And I’m okay with that.  There is a part of me that wants to get excited as we wait for our new referrals.  But there is another part of me that is so hesitant to pursue adoption that I wish I could just get my money back and run away to Italy, buy a piece of land, open a vineyard and figure out how to grow grapes suitable for fine wine.  Fight or flight I guess.  But I know deep down in my heart that God wants us to adopt. I know He wants EVERYONE to care for the orphans and the widows in some capacity.  And I know that in the end, His will will be done and we will have a house full of Ethiopian kiddos and I will be at my wit’s end trying to figure out how to run our company while at the same time chase my children around the house and throughout the neighborhood.  I look forward to that day.

We have about 1.5 – 2 years of waiting for our Ethiopian referral with our first agency.  And we have an undeterminded amount of time with our new agency (the agency we were adopting Kiya with).  We are also about to enter the really busy time of year for blogging (Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the two craziest days of the year for us) so I know that time will go fast from a work standpoint.

All in all though, we are okay. And please know that we are thankful for all of your kind words and encouragement.  And I’m hoping that next week, Jeff will blog a bit more about his time in Ethiopia and Uganda.  Because he saw some amazing things and met some amazing people.  And the stories need to be shared.

Life Stopped – Her Side

Earlier this week I wrote up a blog post to try to explain the emotions I’ve felt thus far since we received a referral for our sweet baby boy. I was going to try to explain how you can inexplicably fall so headfirst for a child and yet at the same time feel overwhelmed over things to do, forms to have notarized, court processes to prepare for, etc etc. I had Jeff proof read my post and I was going to post my thoughts this past Thursday or Friday.

Then life stopped.

Thursdays are usually a day when we receive new pictures of our sweet baby boy with his beautiful, big eyes and adorable smile. Last week I posted on my personal Facebook page, “My new favorite day of the week. Thursdays. We get new pictures of our adorable baby boy every Thursday. God is good.”

Two days ago, Thursday, September 13th, I stalked my email waiting for new pictures. If you are or have adopted internationally, you know that pictures get you through the waiting period between now and when you get to bring your child home. Well, this Thursday, the pictures never came. I went to Bible study at Panera. Still waiting for those pictures, and since Bible study was just about to start, I decided to be rude and check my emails on my phone. I had an email from the director of our agency waiting for me. I opened it and life stopped. I don’t remember much of what I did or said. I do remember not finishing the food that I was eating and I do remember going to the car to call Jeff. I don’t remember much more. I remember driving cautiously home and I remember bawling the whole way.

The email from our director did not include new pictures for us to print out and plaster on our refrigerator with all of our sweet baby’s other pictures. Instead, the email said that Kiya (the name of our baby boy) had passed away. He had died two days prior on September 11th. He had gotten very sick with an upper respiratory infection and he never recovered. Our boy was approximately 2 and a half months old. My brother said, “He never had a chance.” And you know what, living where he did with the medical accessibility the way it is there, he didn’t have a chance.

I still haven’t processed all of my emotions. I still question if this has really happened to us. Denial is a form of grief and it comes and goes right now. Within the past 2 months and 4 days, we had our domestic adoption fall through as our birth mother conned us and then we had our international adoption fall through because our child passed away. I can’t explain the highs and the lows we have experienced. I can’t explain the feeling of loss and of grief I feel right now.

I can say a few things though.

I would have given anything to have been there with him when he passed away. Anything. If I could have, I would have knowingly gone through the adoption and finished paying all of our fees just to be able to hold him while he passed. I don’t know how Ethiopian hospitals work. I don’t know if the nurses there are caring. I tell myself that he had a kind nurse who held him as he passed. But truthfully, I have no idea. I pray he passed knowing he was loved, he was accepted and that Jeff and I were willing to fight for him.

A friend of mine who has been through hell and back and then hell again, emailed me these words, “you be sure to grieve this child, as the loss of your first son. He will always be that. And someday in heaven you will see him and he will know you as his mother and you will know him as your son.” Her words brought comfort to me as I want to believe this. I want to know that this is true. I am praying for the faith that I will know this to be true.

I also feel somewhat ashamed of how I have spent my time the past couple of weeks. I’ve been focusing so much on the process of adoption and on the intricacies of passing court and clearing embassy, that I haven’t focused on our child. I assumed he would be there through these processes. And he isn’t. Now I am left with knowledge on international adoption and no child to adopt. I can’t explain how empty I feel.

I also find myself questioning God. I don’t know why He would have put this situation in our life. There are details to our Ethiopian adoption story that none of you know and that I will never publicly share. But for God to give us such an amazingly unique story that we were planning on someday sharing with little Kiya to then rip it away from us.. I don’t get it. I believe God is good. I believe God allows bad things to happen. I just can’t wrap my brain around why he would introduce Kiya to us and yet then take him away from us.

I have also seen why Jeff and I originally felt so passionate about International adoption. There are naysayers about international adoption. There are people who say you should only adopt in the states. There are people who say you should not adopt in Ethiopia. Through all of their negativity, the only ones that are hurt are the orphans. The orphans are overlooked and they are left alone. Children in third world countries DO NOT have a chance if they become sick. We have now seen this first hand. If Kiya was here in the states, there is a very low probability that he would have passed away. And that is why we felt passionate about International adoption.

I also feel some weird form of embarrassment. I am a very private person. And I feel embarrassed to have now publicly shown such excitement over two adoptions and to then also show such public forms of grief as both of them crumbled apart. And yet at the same time, I feel a bit empowered because we are showing you real life feelings and emotions. I’m not leaving much out for you all. If we just showed you the picture perfect moments of adoption, you wouldn’t see honesty.

Where does this leave us? I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about adoption and I don’t want to think about it. We still have to put in a call to our agency director. She has told us that we are their top priority. And yet, I don’t want to talk to her. I don’t want to think about the future. My future included Kiya and I can’t picture and don’t want to picture anything else right now. I also don’t want to set myself up for more heartache. Jeff told me last night that he doesn’t want me to give up hope. And yet, as I’m going through this grief, I don’t feel one ounce of hope for our future.  A few months ago, I overheard two mothers talking about when they planned to have their next child.  That is a luxury I don’t know that I will ever experience.

When we started this process of adoption, we knew that it would involve a roller coaster of emotions. We knew it would have a lot of ups and downs. But truthfully, thus far, adoption has caused much more heartache than I would have ever imagined. If I had known we would go through this, right now as I’m dealing with this grief, I don’t know that I can say I would have ventured into the world of adoption.

I do believe and trust that God knows exactly what He is doing. I also believe and know that Kiya is with God right now. And while I am so sad that we never had the opportunity to welcome him into our home and love on him, Kiya is actually in a place thousands of times better than he would have been with us. He is there with my dad (who I know is loving him to pieces) and my grandparents and with Jeff’s grandfathers. And I bet that he is there with some of his own biological relatives who have deceased. I know that Kiya is smiling that sweet smile right now with his amazingly beautiful eyes and that he isn’t experiencing any pain or feeling any feelings of abandonment as he is basking in God’s love. And in that knowledge, I actually feel God’s love for me.

If you are someone who prays, we would appreciate your prayers. We will of course continue to blog as our future unfolds.

A Grief Observed – His Side

We throw the word awesome around in our vocabulary fairly cavalierly. Someone gives a good performance on American Idol and we call it awesome; someone makes a diving catch in the outfield and we call it awesome; we get up on skis for the first time and call it awesome.  As one who has used that very word in all three of the contexts above, after the last couple of days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been using the word all wrong.

What we call awesome, the Jews of the Old Testament called terrible.   It’s a hard word for us understand, because our common vernacular and understanding of language views the word terrible as that which describes performance – she did a terrible job singing; that was a terrible decision for him make.  But what if we viewed it like the Hebrews did?

“For the Lord your God is a God of gods and Lord of lords, the Great God, mighty and terrible…and He has done great and terrible things which your eyes have seen.” – Deuteronomy 10:17, 21

What if something could be great and terrible at the same time?  What if God Himself is unimaginably amazing and awesome and terrifying and terrible all at the same time?  What if He is the King of the Universe and a babe in a manger at once?  What if He’s a ferocious lion and gentle lamb at the same time?   What if He is a vengeful warrior and a Prince of Peace without contradicting who His nature is?  What if He’s filled with love and exacting in judgment in perfect harmony? And if He is all these things, doesn’t it make my use of awesome seem utterly insignificant?

Right now, a “great and terrible” God is the only description of Him that makes any sense for me in my despair. This past Thursday night, Liza and I received an email from our adoption coordinator that our son, whose Ethiopian name was Kiya, had been fighting an infection in the hospital, but was not strong enough to beat it; he passed away Tuesday, September 11, 2012.

Liza told me of this news as she was leaving bible study, and in God’s grace, I’m glad she wasn’t around to see my reaction.  I hung up the phone and wept and wailed, sprawled out on the couch, asking over and over, “Why?…..why?”  I do not know.

We go in and out of dealing with this reality, primarily when we are forced to talk about it in detail, as I am now.  We have both wept bitterly, our eyes, as the Psalmist says, “waste away with grief.”   Sleep seems most favorable, because it’s hard to keep tired eyes open.  Friends and family have called and texted, left messages on Facebook, and have encouraged us with kindness and petitions of prayer and strength. Surely this is what God meant when He said, “Comfort the afflicted.”

We don’t have any answers.  We don’t even know what to do next.  In two months we have lost two children, one to another family, and another to death itself. Our hearts break with sorrow and grief.

As unimaginable as it may sound, however, I cannot deny the peace I have within my soul.   I offer no empirical evidence for it, no way to prove it’s real with measurable tests or proofs.  I can only say that the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 course through every fiber of my being in an undeniable way: “For we do not grieve as those who have no hope.”

Grieve, yes.  But as a man without hope?  No, I do not grieve in that way.

My sister-in-law reminded me of CS Lewis’ words in A Grief Observed as he dealt with the death of his wife:

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God.
The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.
The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like.
Deceive yourself no longer.’

This grief observed does not shake my confidence in the goodness or love of my heavenly Father. As my best friend put it, “God is good and loving and cares about you and Liza so much that He does not pander to the here and now.”  While Liza and I so desperately wanted to raise our son and see him take care of us in our old age, if he was destined to die as a baby in the providence of a Great and Terrible God, we are thankful we were chosen to be his parents, if only for a short while.  Humans typically view life on a linear “here and now” continuum; but I’m thankful God does not pander to my “here and now” wants, but on His “timeless and eternal” plan, a plan I know seemingly nothing about. But the part I do know – that He is God and I am not – is somehow enough.

I also know one other thing – our son didn’t die without a family.  I trust God will bless us with children in the future.  And when He does, I’ll be able to tell them about the brother they never knew, but will know one day “when we see Him face to face.”

Yes, the God of the bible is a Great and Awesome and Terrible God; I can do nothing but fall on my face before Him in absolute subjection. It’s in the presence of this Terrible God that the greatness of His love protects me and comforts me in my grief. It is here that I accept Him for who He really is.

Liza is still processing this event; we both will for some time.  We truly covet your thoughts and prayers during this, our grief observed.