Ethiopia really was the trip of a lifetime. I tried to prepare myself for what to expect and what I would see, but I found myself surprised and amazed nonetheless. Ethiopia is known, unfortunately, for poverty and famine. While that is, again unfortunately, part of it's story; it would be a great disservice to stop there. What I discovered Ethiopia to be is a country of beauty, pride, rich history and warm, loving people. Yes, to stop telling the story at poverty would be inaccurate.
It was not uncommon to see women walking hand in hand or men walking with their arms around one another. Their relationships are important and they are not distracted with the busyness of life and hectic schedules. They have time for one another. It's a much slower pace of life. The Ethiopian people love children and babies and stop often to admire their smiles or shower affection. I found myself wondering how many "every day" blessings I miss because I am too busy or rushed to get to the next thing. There is much beauty in these people - physically, yes, they are beautiful; but also in their warmth towards one another.
The landscape of Ethiopia is beautiful as well. I do wish we'd had more time to get outside of the city to see more of this, but even to look up into the mountains from the city you could see glimpses of Ethiopia's landscape.
The children, though.....oh, that is where my heart is. I tear up even beginning to remember them. How beautiful they are. Truly. My heart rejoices with the little ones who went home with their forever families, but aches for those left behind it. I mean it - I feel a physical ache remembering these little ones. The orphans, both on the street and in the orphanage, just longing for you to look them in the eyes and connect with them. Just wanting to be noticed and feel important....even if only for a moment. Leaving them behind is probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I vowed that I would bring their story and tell it to others.....do you have room? I mean, really...? I really am asking you.....do you have room for one of these precious children to have a home and a family to call their own? Yes, I know it is expensive.....yes, I know it is an investment......yes, I know it will change your life and your own kids may have to make sacrifices.....you may have to do without something else or even borrow money to do it......But these children are real. They are just like yours and mine. It is tempting to let the distance act as a buffer and allow us not to digest the fact that there are children in this world who are hungry.....yes, physically hungry; but also hungry for love, attention, connection and family. There are really not many of reading this that can honestly say we don't have that to give.
"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act" Proverbs 24:12
Elijah is adjusting well to being at home. He is a happy baby and we think he's darling. He even slept through the night last night (9-6) - we are pretty impressed with that! He smiles easily and is so engaging...it is so fun to have him around. What a blessing!
I was prepared to come home and be exhausted and possibly overwhelmed, but none of that has happened. Eli fits perfectly into our family and while it does take a little longer to get things done now, it all seems very natural. We have yet to establish a real consistent napping routine, but it has only been 3 days since we got home!! We are happy with his night sleep and will develop a routine for napping soon enough. We have had a few visitors and are happy to see them and share our latest addition.
I am amazed at God's ability to take a child from another part of the world and mesh them into our family. We just feel like he is ours. Period. Only an incredible God like the one we serve could perform the miracle that is adoption. I will be forever grateful that He brought us on this journey and saw fit to bring Eli into our home.....the blessing is all ours.
Hi Friends....we are finally home! I was unable to update the last part of the week and then we started our journey home on Friday.....it was quite a trip! Elijah traveled so well and I was very proud of him. Travel is exhausting and he was hauled all over the place, but he was quite a trooper.
We discovered on Thursday evening that Eli had a fever. This was upsetting as you can imagine, not only just because he was sick, but also because we had several long flights ahead of us. Luckily I had taken infant Tylenol and Motrin that we gave him. He was still usually happy and content, though....only fussy when he was tired or ready for more Tylenol. We began our trip home on Friday (evening there) and were glad to have two other families we had traveled with be on our flights home. Our first bump in the road occured at the ET airport where the guy checking passports did not want to let Elijah through......he looked at his passport picture and his visa picture and insisted it wasn't the same baby.....my heart was POUNDING!! He told us to "come back tomorrow" and bring more documentation. I just silently prayed and tried to explain that babies change and grow hair, etc. and it was the same child. He finally let us through, but kind of in a "I'm doing you a favor" kind of way.....whatever....just get me home! Our flight to Dubai was uneventful and Eli traveled well and then we boarded in Dubai for our LONG flight to NYC. Nathan and I did not get seats together, but he was only two rows behind me and I did get a seat with a bassinet for Elijah to sleep in....that was a huge help. He was in there maybe not quite half of the time - I was so thankful to have it. This flight was SO LONG - it was scheduled to be 14 hours. Elijah did so well.....I got several comments from flight attendants and passengers about what a happy (and cute) baby he was. Even so, the flight was hard and I was exhausted by the end....it's really impossible to get good sleep on an airplane. As we were preparing to land in NYC, our plane was rerouted back to Boston to land because weather (?) prevented us from landing in New York - Let me tell you, people, after a 14 hour flight this is NOT what you want to hear! We sat on the tarmac at Boston for another 2+ hours and then made our way back to New York. At this point, we had less than 1 hour to make it through customs, claim our bags and run to our next flight......we hurried, people let us in front of them, and ran when we could, but could not make our flight. I wanted to sit down and bawl right there.....I was exhausted and MISSING MY KIDS!! I was so sad not to be getting home. We were very thankful that our friends, the Stacklers, who had traveled with us to ET with our adoption group, were at the airport to take care of us. Amy got us water, gave me formula and William helped us find our bags and look up possible other flights and just supported us. They had had an exhausting flight with a 2 year old and yet took the time to take care of us.......I know God put them there to help us through that time and it was invaluable....thank you Stacklers!! We went on to stand in a couple of different lines....dragging our huge carry on, four suitcases and a feverish baby through the airport. We were a sight. We were told that the only flights available were the next day - there was nothing that day at all!! The airline put us up in a hotel....not a great one, but a room with a shower and beds. We had to switch rooms when we got there because the air wasn't working in the first room (it was HOT!). We showered, ate and slept the rest of our time there....it felt so good to sleep!! On Sunday, we went to the airport to check in. The airline representative then explained to us that we had not been given actual seats, we were on stand-by! The thought of not getting home again was unbelievable, but luckily, we were able to get seats......talk about RELIEF. In retrospect, I was glad that I hadn't known all night we were on stand-by (we were told we had seats) - I wouldn't have slept as well, I am sure. Our flight got into Indy at about 3 on Sunday and it was SO GOOD to see my kids and family there waiting for me in the airport!! What a relief it was to all be together and to not have to get on another plane!
Our three big kids are excited to have a new brother and have been almost disappointed that he has slept so much since he got home - they are ready to play with him! I am loving being in my own home again and love that all of us are together and can get to know each other. Elijah is feeling much better and his fever seems to be down. His cough and cold are clearing up, too....still congested, but NOTHING like it was in ET. We are thankful for that.
I am still processing much of what I saw in Ethiopia....I am still trying to think of how to share it and express to you the urgency to step up and care for these children without coming across as bossy or judgemental.....it is not my heart to be either, but it is my heart to somehow express to you HOW MANY children like Elijah need loving homes. I believe it is God's plan to use us to care for these children. I wish each of you could see it all with your own eyes. I know I am forever changed because of what I saw....at least I hope I am. More on that to come..... For now, I have to go feed my baby! :))
Today was another eventful day....we had our consulate appointment at the American Embassy in order to be sure all the paperwork was in order and to obtain Elijah's visa. The visit was a success and we can pick up his visa on Friday. (our agency will actually pick it up for us) We are thankful for this, because this is occasionally where families will run into trouble with their paperwork and have to stay longer in Ethiopia. We have enjoyed our time here, but will be ready to get home and back to a routine and our 3 big kids!
Elijah continues to do well and be a good baby - we feel so blessed. He has babbled even more today and luckily liked the sling I brought to carry him in. He was a great sleeper last night - almost 8 hours!! That was awesome. The only trouble was that I didn't sleep as well because I laid there all night listening for him. Now that I know his schedule better, hopefully I will sleep better tonight. Please pray for us and the other families we are traveling with as we bond with our kids and travel home with them. There are many adjustments to be made. Some kids will struggle more than others, but all of them have lost a great deal to come home with us. Eli seems to have adjusted well so far, and we pray that that continues.
Sorry for the sideways picture yesterday.....I have to post through email and wasn't sure how to turn it. Thanks for following along!
I am attempting to add a picture to my blog (will someone please email me and tell me if you can see them??). We can't see our own blog from here....you can only email to it and I haven't tried pictures before!
We have Elijah in our room now....he is ours forever!! People...this kid is seriously cute. He's also such a good baby. He's very content (so far!) and laughs and giggles a lot. He also "talks". It has been so much fun to have him with us! I am hoping that his good disposition will continue and that the flight home will go as well as possible with a 7 month old! (we'd love for you to pray specifically for that).
We feel fortunate that we have continued to feel good and haven't gotten sick. We are enjoying our time here and soaking in all the culture we can. Ethiopians are beautiful people are warm and friendly. There is much poverty, but there is also much good in this rich culture. I am thankful for our time here to learn more about where our son came from.
That's all for now.....more later if I can get an internet connection!
We've had a good day today. We are both thankful that we are feeling well and getting adjusted to the time change....every now and then it will hit us, but we slept pretty well last night and had a little nap today (well, I did!)
We started the day by going to a local church here. It was not a traditional Ethiopian church as I had thought it might be, but an evangelical international church. The service was done in English and it felt much like our church does at home....there was a band leading worship and the pastor is originally from South Carolina. The neatest part about going, though, was that you could look around the church and see people from all nationalities and colors all worshiping together. There were a mix of Africans as well as Asians, Americans, Europeans, and so on. It was like a look into heaven.
After lunch our driver, David, (who is awesome) took us to see the area in which our Elijah was found. There are not words to describe this area of Addis Ababa. The people are desperately poor and the conditions are beyond what I can explain. I am sure, after seeing it, that Eli was abandoned due to desperation. I mean it when I say that it appeared as if these people had NO resources....Children everywhere, wandering, and many just sleeping in the streets. (Yes, some of them literally in the streets). The kids were precious; running alongside our vehicle, not to beg, but for you to smile at them or take their picture. Just hungry for attention and connection. It was crowded and filthy and yet the people are so warm.....walking alongside one another holding hands or with their arms around each other. I kept looking around at these people...these children....and thinking that this could have been Eli's future. Easily. We will never know his full story, but I can tell you that I have a new appreciation for what could have been for him had God not rescued him. It is humbling to be a part of that plan.
Tomorrow morning we fill out more paperwork, go to lunch and then to go the Transition Home to meet Elijah! We will spend the afternoon with him, but do not take him with us until Tuesday. I honestly can't believe this day is here.
Please continue to pray for us - for our health and Eli's, for our paperwork and for our meeting of him tomorrow. Tomorrow is a no power day, but if they turn the generator on in the evening again, I will try to post!
Well, we are here! We made it to Ethiopia on what is for us, Saturday morning. (while you were sleeping Friday night) Our flights were long, but uneventful, which is a good thing. The guesthouse we are staying in is nice and the people that work here are very friendly and helpful. We are thankful to be here after such a long journey!
It is surreal to think we are in the very city where Elijah is. It seems surreal that we will meet him in two short days and he will be ours. I'm not sure it will seem real until we meet him and hold him for ourselves.
The city is full of people and the contrast between the poor conditions and the beautiful landscape is a hard one to digest. We spent the afternoon looking around with another adoptive family, the Gillmans. We went to the top of Entoto Mountain and to a couple of museums and then walked to have dinner tonight. Tomorrow we will go to a local church - I'm looking forward to that. On Monday, we will meet Elijah!!
I will post as often as I can, but we only have power every other day. As I write this, I am hurrying because we only have power because they turned the generator on at the guesthouse for a little while. I don't want it to go off in the middle of my post!
Well, friends.....here we are! The day is almost here that we will board a plane and fly half way around the world to meet and bring home our precious Elijah. I can hardly believe it's actually here - it seems surreal. My emotions have been all over the place....I am, above all, incredibly excited! What started as a stirring in our hearts has become reality and I am in awe that our ever faithful God has brought us this far. I am overcome with gratitude and emotion as I reflect on His goodness and that He saw fit to include me in such a wonderful plan as this.
We feel blessed and privileged to have so many of you praying for us. It means everything to us. Here are some specific ways you can pray:
Pray for us to be able to see things through God's eyes. I can feel that He is changing my heart through this journey, and I want to become more like Him in this process.
Please pray for safe travel. (Safety, flight connections, no lost baggage, etc.)
Health - I am a wimp. (There, I said it!) I have a weak stomach and become easily exhausted by stress. Please pray that both of us would stay healthy (Eli, too!) and also sleep well.
Please pray for all of our paperwork to be in place and for our Consulate appointment on Wednesday.
Pray for our 3 big kids (Haley, Hayden and Emma) during this time we are gone. They are totally fine with us going and are in great hands.....we aren't actually worried about them, just missing them already and want them to have a great time while we are gone.
Attachment and bonding with Elijah. I feel like God has already woven him into my heart....I am praying that somehow he will do the same for Eli and that somehow we wouldn't feel like total strangers to him. Please pray that he will attach to us quickly.
Thank you, thank you for praying for us. We will try to post some while we are gone....check either here or on Facebook. Power and internet in ET is a little sketchy, but I'll try to get something up every now and then!
Can you believe it?? The countdown is on....I can hardly believe I am typing that we will be leaving in one week to go meet Elijah and bring him home! It's surreal....some moments I feel like it is going to happen and others I can hardly wrap my brain around it. It's actually happening!!
We are busy packing, planning and preparing - for our trip, to leave our 3 big kids for a week, and of course, for Elijah to come home. We have piles and lists all over our bedroom.....I'm a girl of order, so it's making me a bit crazy. All for a good cause, though, right? :)
Many have asked "how we are doing". Nathan, of course, is cool as a cucumber...not much rattles him. I have to say, though, most of the time I'm doing pretty well myself. The anticipation of travel is probably what makes me the most nervous. We are not international travelers, so this is a bit of unfamiliar territory for us. I feel a great peace, though, about adding Eli to our family and bringing him home. (Yes, I know it will be an adjustment, and no, I am not in denial!) The idea of bringing him home and getting to know him makes me giddy with excitement.....it's just the longest leg of the flight (14 hours) that makes my stomach turn a bit!
We are a family of ten...striving to live the lives that please God...getting it wrong a lot of the time, but trying nonetheless. We have eight beautiful children...three were given to us through birth and five through the miracle of adoption. We feel blessed to be living the life we've been given.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
~ One in ten children die before their first birthday ~ One in six children die before their fifth birthday ~ 44% of the population is under 15 years old ~ 60% of children in Ethiopia are stunted because of malnutrition ~ The median age in Ethiopia is 17.8 years old ~ 1.5 million people are infected with AIDS (6th highest in the world) ~ There are roughly 4.6 million orphans in Ethiopia ~ Per capita, Ethiopia receives less aid than any country in Africa ~ Half of the children in Ethiopia will never attend school. ~ 88% will never attend secondary school ~ Coffee prices (Ethiopia's only major export) declined 40-60% from 1998-2002 ~ Ethiopia's doctor to children ratio is 1 to 24,000 ~ Severe drought struck country from 2000-2002 (first year no crops, second year no seeds, third year no animals)