Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's a Merry Ethiopian Christmas

After a few anxious days yesterday I received that long-awaited e-mail from Sue announcing embassy clearance for this Thursday! Kathy and I had packed on faith the night before believing this would happen. The e-mail was only the beginning as better than half a day was spent securing airline reservations and confirming there is room at Grace Guest House. In just a few hours we board a plane to Ethiopia! We will arrive at 0110 in the morning on the 30th, travel to the guest house and await an early morning trip to Miskaye to get Joseph and Jacob. From there we will travel to the embassy for a brief interview and back later in the day to pick up necessary paperwork saying they are mine and can travel! Just two and a half days later we will begin the journey home. Arrival is scheduled for 5:41 at Nashville International airport on United flight 5924. There will be a group of family and friends gathered at the top of the escalators with a welcome home Joseph and Jacob sign if you care to join us.
I have also made an appointment for their first visit with the pediatrician and planned an Ethiopian Christmas celebration in the 7th. The tree is the only Christmas remnants left in my house..well, and the tons of packages waiting for the boys :) Oh, and I discovered that I had been reading the boy's birth certificates as month/day/year instead of as written day/month/year! This means I was in Ethiopia on Jacob's first birthday 11/7 and will celebrate Joseph's 4th birthday on 5/12. Everything about their development is right on target now that I have this straight!
God is faithful and true to those who wait on his perfect timing. I am so thankful for the prayers and support of so many through the past year and can only re-pay the kindness through the smiles of two little boys. Thank you all! and I am out of here!! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Waiting for any news

It's been a while since I last updated. For those who don't know, the first anticipated embassy appointment was held up by something requested of the birth mother. So two weeks later I wait not so patiently for possible word of travel at the next embassy date. I know that God's timing is perfect and that Joseph and Jacob will be here as planned, but it is so hard. I fight the tears often as I think of my sons. I have three sons, none of which can I be with on this Christmas. Yet as was heard in church on Sunday morning, I should not grumble and complain at life's circumstances. So this Christmas my daughters and I will celebrate and be thankful for where we are, what we have, and what is to come. We'll remember those who can't be with us, and will look forward to the reunion that is coming soon. As I watch and re-watch the many videos and look at pictures from first meeting the boys I anticipate Joseph running to me with outstretched arms and that smile that lights up the night. Who knows, maybe there will even be a glimmer of recognition from Jacob (or at least a few less tears). So for now, I remember to praise God for this additional two weeks in which I prepared my heart and my home for the arrival of my sons.
Guys, I will be there soon. I love you with all of my heart and rejoice that God will be with you this Christmas despite my absence. Merry Christmas!

Third Day - Merry Christmas - Christmas Offerings

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fundraising activities

There were many events planned to help financially prepare for this journey. Yard sales, a cookout, benefit dinners, and a gold party were some of those I hosted with the help of family and friends. At the first yard sale Kathy held a raffle for handmade baby afghans while Anna Ruth and Rebecca manned a table of lemonade, brownies, and cookies.

The cookout was hysterical as a grill that normally has flames a foot high had but a tiny flicker. Thanks to Becky for inviting me to Big Lots for this fun-filled day!

Benefit dinners were held at the Dinner Bell and Chick-fil-A and attended by co-workers, family, and friends! I was blessed to have my son David home on R & R from Iraq to attend Chick-fil-A. Thanks to Allison and Jason for these events.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Missing these little guys like crazy

Just realized how awful I've been at updating the blog since actually being able to show pictures of the boys. I'll try and spend these next days waiting on word from the embassy to post some of my favorite memories of this journey. This video was made when Kathy and I went for court and depicts the boys personalities well. The waiting is hard but watching the videos and looking at the pictures just makes me smile. Joseph and Jacob, I'll be there soon!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

and it's embassy time!

In just a few short hours my paperwork will be reviewed and plans finalized for a return trip to bring the boys home. I received an e-mail from Sue today which said to be ready to travel for a December 16 embassy date, meaning we will return home the 18th and in plenty of time for Christmas. I know in my head there is a possibility that something will be missing or that there won't be two slots left for the embassy appointment but in my heart I keep hearing December 16th and have for months. I think I may stay up these next few hours in prayer as the clock ticks towards business hours in Ethiopia. Or, perhaps I'll close my eyes knowing that prayers of thanks have been lifted from all parts of the world for what God will do!
Needless to say the next few days will be crazy. I have a shower on Saturday (have already begun receiving cards and gifts!), airline tickets to book, a guest house to reserve, and shopping to be done. Not to mention getting the last items placed in the boys' room resulting from the shower. Oh, and then there is work. How in the world do I wrap that up neatly in a week. I am so excited I can't eat, can't sleep, can barely even think as my mind races toward this homecoming. In the midst of all the joy is a sadness that I will miss Joseph's birthday on December 5. He turns 3 and will be without a family to celebrate. But oh how we will make up for that when he and Jacob are here.
Thanking God for what he will do and praying for my sons...will post again soon.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"They are your children"

The last week has been the most amazing experience of my life. Kathy and I left for Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia on Saturday, November 6. We arrived to the Grace Guest House on the evening of November 7.
Early in the afternoon of November 8 I met Joseph and Jacob. They were everything I imagined. Joseph has a calm, quiet, loving personality. He is a protector of his brother. Jacob is very strong-willed and very cautious in showing his true self. As we left Miskaye orphanage Joseph told us that his feet hurt. His shoes were about two sizes too small, so at our next stop, an orphanage to pick up a little boy for a Phillip and Gina Payne (another CCI family from Franklin), Joseph was given another pair of shoes and some lunch. Both boys slept on the ride back to the Guest House. Joseph woke happy and accepting of the circumstances of his new life. Jacob remained quiet throughout the first day. I saw quickly that Joseph is quite the athlete as he kicked anad threw ball all afternoon. He was thrilled with a pair of shoes that fit his feet and acted as though I had given him a brick of gold when he also got new underwear. Jacob accepted his meals but remained quiet throughout the day. Both boys slept soundly until the call to worship early the next morning.
November 9 Jacob awoke a new child. The first time he was up during the night he was on his knees. The second time he was standing. He quickly showed off his ability to crawl and is almost walking. Both boys played well, napped, and ate great. Until the night that is. I'm still not sure if Jacob sensed my apprehension over the pending court appearance or if his stomach was upset from the change in formula, but he cried most of the night.
November 10 both boys were again happy and playful. I headed to court late morning leaving Kathy in charge. Apparently Joseph had quite a come apart when I left asking where his mama had gone. With the help of an interpreter it was explained what was happening. He begged to not return to the orphanage, agreed to get on an airplane "just one time," and he, Jacob, and Kathy went to the room to cry together and look for distraction.
I sat in the court room knowing that their mother was present. As I scanned the sea of faces I quickly found her. Jacob looks just like her! After her appearance she agreed to meet with me. Though few words were spoken (and none with an interpreter) I hope that she understood my love and gratitude for these two little ones. I was called in to see the judge soon after. There were a few brief questions followed by a period of silence and then those long awaited words..."they are your children." I practically ran from the room and could not wait to return to tell Kathy and the boys.
The afternoon was hectic as we packed for our return trip. Joseph watched anxiously as we filled our luggage. When we went outside to await our ride he climbed in my lap and went to sleep. Jacob sat quietly with Kathy. Joseph slept the entire ride back to Miskaye for which I am grateful. There were many tears as we left these boys in the care of those who obviously care deeply for them. I left them with photo albums and toys and a promise to return as soon as possible. I only hope that someone is telling them daily that I am coming back. Our afternoon was spent shopping before returning to the airport. There are many stories to share another time.
Kathy and I arrived back in Nashville on November 11 exhausted emotionally and physically. I pray now for a quick turnaround as paperwork arrives to the Embassy. My prayer is for a homecoming prior to Christmas. I spend each day watching videos and looking at pictures praying for the moment when Joseph and Jacob are again in my arms.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ethiopia bound

As I sit here on the eve of my first journey to Ethiopia I am filled with every emotion known to man. I am overjoyed, excited, scared...perhaps a bit terrified...at what lies ahead. In just two short days I will come face to face with two boys born to another mother but ordained by God to be my sons. How do you possibly prepare for that? I have always been a bit of a control freak and have never felt more of a sense of loss of control through this entire experience. Let go and let God...a tough one for this type A personality.
I liken this experience to the hours of labor before giving birth to Kathy, Amy, and David. When these three were born I had no idea what was in front of me. I didn't even know their sex, much less the personalities that were coming my way. This time I can confidently say "it's a boy, well two!" and look forward to learning about them as they do me.
I pray for safety for Kathy and myself. See, we both have health issues and she had a really bad experience on her last flight (blew an ACL). I am recovering from hives resulting from an antibiotic. She is fighting a sinus infection. Then there is the whole latex allergy thing that scares me to death. I saw pictures of an Ethiopian ICU today and I sure do not want to experience any part of a hospital. So, I pray. I pray for the pilots who guide the planes. I pray for these two boys that they may somehow accept me as their Mama. Most of all I pray for their mother who will appear in court on the same day I do. She is perhaps the most courageous woman I will never know as she surrenders her children to a life she cannot offer. I can't even begin to imagine the emotions she must be experiencing even at this moment.I pray that I pass court the first date and that the time from court to embassy is short. Joseph and Jacob, as I prepare for this journey I am filled with love and I am filled with awe and wonder and I thank God for bringing me to the wildest adventure of my life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Travel is coming soon!

The last month or so has been busy with fundraisers. We had a cookout at Big Lots on 9-4, dinner at Chick-fil-A on 9-16, and most recently a gold party with Mere and Pere on 10-9. Thanks to these events I have enough money for the first trip to Ethiopia! I can't thank enough those loyal supporters who have attended everything to date!!
Yesterday I received the long awaited e-mail from CCI beginning with "we have received your court dates and they are right around the corner!" I was at work and flew through the e-mail saying OMG, OMG, OMG!!! I think those in the office with me thought I had a momentary lapse of sanity (which I may have). Phone calls and e-mails began flying as I was given the option of two dates for travel. The first is actually for the birth family so it took no thought on my part to choose this one. I can't think of anything more exciting than to possibly be sitting in the same hallway as the mother of these boys. Though I will likely not even know her if she sits beside me I can't think of how cool it would be to tell the boys that both of their moms made this decision on the same date.
The past 24 hrs seem to have flown and once again God has orchestrated a perfect plan. Another adoptive family will be at Miskaye orphanage this week and has offered to take measurements of the boys so I have a closer idea of clothes sizes to purchase. Airline tickets are at an all time low and through the help of a referred travel agent those are booked. Most importantly, there is room in the inn : ) this being the Grace Guest House. For this reason, the boys will stay with me for the time I am in Ethiopia!
Kathy and I leave Nashville Nov. 6, arrive in Addis Nov. 7, and will pick the boys up Nov. 8. They will remain with us until our flight leaves the night of Nov. 10. Though this will undoubtedly be an emotionally and physically draining week I am so excited that the time is drawing near to hold these little ones in my arms. If all goes well they will be home for Christmas. God is so good. See, just a few short weeks ago I heard that it would likely be December court and then February homecoming. Keep praying my friends. God has got his hands all over this adoption!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Birthday's are hard

You would think I would be used to this by now. I spent the last birthday with my mother three years ago. My son moved to Hawaii with the Army and is fixing to spend his second birthday protecting our freedom from Iraq. Last year he was home; but home is Hawaii.

This birthday is so different....

August is a month to celebrate in my family. My brother, sister, granddaughter, and myself all celebrate birthday's in August. This year I've been to an army party for my grandson Colten, Bengals party for Michael, and most recently a Dora party for Kensley.

And I wonder....

Today while painting the room which will be Joseph and Jacob's bedroom I found myself singing the song I often sang during David's first deployment. You see, sometime during the month of August my baby boy Jacob Yabsera turned one year old. I have missed so much of his young life and today causes me to wonder. Did someone remind him of that day a year ago when his mother celebrated his birth? Did he have a birthday celebration? Did someone tell him just how special he is and sing Happy Birthday to You. I wonder this for both of my boys whose real birthdays I may never know. At least for Jacob I know the month; for Joseph I may never have that luxury.

I can't wait to hold these little ones in my arms; to count their fingers and toes; to listen to those belly laughs that can only come from children; to breathe the very essence of them. I can't wait to spend a lifetime of birthdays celebrating their lives.

Yet, for now I wait and I wonder....

Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight
Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight

Somewhere out there someone's saying a prayer
That we'll find one another in that big somewhere out there

And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star

And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky

Somewhere out there if love can see us through
Then we'll be together somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yes, no, and wait awhile

One of these three answers is provided to every prayer. I must admit that I personally am only fond of the first. Patience is definitely not one of my virtues and God knows that well. So He decided to take the adoption opportunity to help me learn the value in waiting on His timing. The Bible says but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint Isaiah 40:31. Many versions substitute the word wait for hope. In fact, wait is the word which came to mind as I recalled this verse.

On April 1 while home from work on a sick day I received a call from Sue at CCI. She had a seven month old and his three year old brother that she felt were perfect for me. The baby had been brought to the orphanage and the brother was supposed to be brought in a matter of days. She sent pictures for me to view and I immediately saw this baby as one of mine. But, a baby! I hadn't counted on that. When I began the process I was thinking ages 2-4...perfect to play with the grandkids and a perfect age so I could still retire on time:) After a few days Sue called to see if I was interested in the baby by himself as the brother had still not arrived. As I prayed through the question I couldn't help but remember the vision of the toddler I had seen months earlier. Could it be that I had gotten it wrong? Maybe that was this little one in a couple of years? Surrounded by questions but certain of His intent for this to be my son I said yes; with or without his brother I would adopt him.

The next day I received an e-mail from Sue which briefly offered apologies and a statement that the mother had returned for this little one. My heart broke yet I rejoiced that he would remain with his mother and brother in his country. I prayed daily for his safety and happiness and began waiting for the next referral.

Several pictures were sent my way through the next months of waiting children. Yes, I could love each of them, but time and again I prayed through the decision and said no. I wondered how would I know when to say yes again as the pain and fear of experiencing what had previously happened haunted me. My daughter suggested asking a friend how she knew, but I didn't need to. I knew without a doubt that this boy was my son and I prayed.

Several months passed and in July Sue had another quick trip to Ethiopia. It was at that time that Kathy shared a quote from camp. "Don't ask God for something; expect him to do it!" Okay, so that was a new approach, so daily I prayed for Sue and thanked God for leading her to my boys. On July 21 I received an e-mail from CCI. It was brief, simply stating that the baby was back and his brother was with him and asked if I was still interested. Still interested!!! I think they could hear me shouting around the world at that moment. I received pictures the next day and saw now 11 month old Jacob with his 3 year old brother Joseph. I laughed, I cried, I shouted praises to our Father for answered prayers. I was covered in goose bumps as I immediately knew Joseph from the boy in my vision!

The lessons are many, but among the most important to me is that God's timing is impecable and perfect. See, when I first heard of these boys I was trying to finish up my Masters program and had just begun a new role at work. I wondered how I could ever manage with two children. But God knew. He knew that he could give these boys a few more months with their Mom in their home country, keep them out of the orphanage, and let me finish what I had begun. Now I wait for the rainy season to end in Ethiopia so that I can bring my sons home. I wait this time because God knew again. This time not what I had to finish but rather what I wanted to finish. As I paint their rooms (and the rest of the house) I am preparing my grandchildren for changes to come. The room known as "Michael's room" for so long is suddenly a play room and he asked last weekend why I moved his bed. It won't be an easy adjustment for them. I also wait to prepare myself for what is to come. I have already given up any free time as I prepare for their arrival. I am not naive enough to think they will come home and all will be smooth sailing. In fact, I am quite certain that at some point the three of us will sit in the floor and cry together. But as I wait, I read adoption books and I pray. I pray for their hearts that they may know me as I knew them.

Father God, I thank you for the plan that I now see clearly. I ask that you would bless Joseph and Jacob as they wait. I ask for health and happiness. I pray that you would let them begin to see their new family in their dreams. I pray for an easy transition for each of us. I pray for their mother Lord and the heartache she must be feeling. Above all, I pray that you will give me the wisdom to help them become the strong Godly men you intended. Thank you Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You are not alone

February 2010 - As I began to contemplate my financial situation and spending long hours worrying how I could ever afford the expenses of adoption, a friend shared a quote with me which says: "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it;" and so I began to pray in earnest believing this to be so.

Fundraisers do not come naturally to me. I have always been very self-sufficient and asking for help is a hit to my pride. However, recently I began to understand that the message through this experience resounds that I am not alone.

I began advertising yard sales in February and watched in awe as my garage was taken over by donations. The night before the first sale we priced and pushed the last items back into the garage. I am certain that not another item would have fit and wish I had taken a picture of the wall to wall, floor to ceiling donations. On the morning of March 20, bundled in a jacket, coat, and gloves items were moved to the yard. What I watched as the day progressed was the most amazing experience of my life. People were everywhere! At one point the street was lined by cars on both sides and around the corner as far as the eye could see. Two events especially made me smile that day. A friend of my daughters had driven from far away to shop. She had only a vague idea of where she was going but spoke of how the clouds parted with sun beams literally pointing to the house where the sale was. Wow! Then there was the moment when a little elderly woman asked if she could buy the deer out of my garden. I thought a minute and then responded "why not. I'd sell you the shirt off my back right not." We talked for a minute and she then revealed her identity as Mrs. Claus. I looked up and there stood Santa waiting very inpatiently for her to finalize her purchase : ) The sale was hugely successful and in one day over $2000 was in the bank.

The second sale brought warmer weather and more excitement. At one point when I was in the house I heard a neighbor saying "get your Mom now." When I walked outside there stood the police. Now I have had my share of experiences with the police thanks to my son (another story for another blog) and know how to respond to the police, but when he asked me to control parking and have everyone park on one side of the street I had to laugh (which I don't think he found funny). We obliged with the threat of a fine if another person complained about traffic and put a sign up telling drivers to park on one side of the street per Smyrna police department. Which I must say they did. Everyone parked on only one side of the street (though not necessarily the same side) and another $1000 went in the bank.

By the third adoption benefit yard sale held in July with temperatures near 100 degrees I again watched in awe as the crowds came and many who had donated items shopped for treasures. Santa and Mrs. Claus visited again and another $1200 went in the bank.

There have been other fundraisers thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and complete strangers. There are many more scheduled and these will soon be advertised. I paid the first half adoption fees recently! How, I'm still not sure. The money has come and continues to be raised. As I enter the home stretch to bringing Joseph and Jacob home I rejoice in those who have come together in support and prove that I am not alone in this journey.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
Isaiah 65:24

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Be careful what you ask for

Something my mother told me many years ago, yet a lesson I so frequently forget. We had recently been challenged at church to "put our yes on the table." Okay, no problem I thought. I can give to the sending church campaign without effort and tithing had become a part of my life. Yet there was something more. As I always do I spent that evening praying, this time for God to bring the joy back into my heart (hence the blog title). Still reeling emotionally from the loss of my mother, overwhelmed by school, and with new job opportunities on the horizon, I felt like life had become way to routine with far too few pleasures involved. Yes, I did what I wanted when I wanted, but something was missing.

In November 2009 God answered that prayer in a way I never saw coming. As I watched a video in church I heard myself saying out loud "but I don't even know how to wash his hair." You see that little boy was from Ethiopia. It was at that moment that I first saw Joseph. I still don't know how to explain that vision, but this tugging at the heart strings to find my son was strong. I had previously felt the call to help orphans but as I am so good at doing had told God to wait. This time was different and there was no turning back. I told my girls at lunch that I thought I was supposed to adopt and shared the experience. I was met with pure excitement and a second look of "wow, Mama has lost her mind." Lost my mind....no. Found my purpose and finally following God's plan...definitely yes.

Classes began soon after to make sure I knew what I was in for but I knew. I argued with God with every ounce of my being as I began the application process. I had seen each of my children become successful adults and was at a place in life set for retirement in 20 or so years. Yet every argument was met with a reason which equally said it wasn't about me. In one of my weakest moments when Satan was telling me again that I couldn't possibly do this, and on the morning of my first home study, I prayed that if I had heard God wrong he should stop the process on that day. Before the words were completely out of my mouth my phone rang and it was Sue from CCI. I had been moved to the top of her list for adoptive parents desiring boys. I laughed as I was reminded of just how good God is at providing answers to our deepest fears. Just recently I saw Joseph for the first time; but not really. See, this is the child I was shown many months ago on that morning in church. The beauty is that God didn't reveal his plan in its fullness as Joseph comes with a little brother, Jacob!!

Many have been encouraging and many have been brutally honest with negative comments. My favorite is still "what if you die?" Well this I can tell you. The one guarantee in life with 100% certainty is that unless Christ chooses to return first, I will. In the meantime my life will be filled with joy beyond measure as these boys born in another place and to another mother join their forever family. Joseph Tyler, 3 years and Jacob Yabsera who is turning 1 this month...Mama will soon be there for you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Adoption Timeline

There is so much to catch up on and I will do so one event at a time. For now, here is a timeline of my adoption journey.

November 29, 2009 Call to adoption

January 14, 2010 Application to Adoption Assistance

January 22, 2010 Application to USCIS

January 22, 2010 Application to Celebrate Children International

January 25, 2010 Application to TBI

February 8, 2010 Homestudy, part 1

February 16, 2010 Appointment received for USCIS

February 19, 2010 Homestudy, part 2

February 19, 2010 Contract to CCI

March 4, 2010 Fingerprints at USCIS

March 16, 2010 Home study received

March 20, 2010 First yard sale ($2063.54)

March 29, 2010 USCIS approved

April 1, 2010 First glimpse of Yabsera

April 30, 2010 Casual day at Wilson County schools ($200.00)

May 8, 2010 Yard sale #2 ($1000.00)

June 1, 2010 Educational packet complete and mailed

June 11, 2010 Dinner Bell adoption benefit ($200.00)

July 21, 2010 Referral!! Joseph and Yabsera will be saved

July 22, 2010 E-mail acceptance of referral

July 23-24, 2010 Yard sale #3 ($1206.40)

August 3, 2010 Letter to Big Lots, Faith Church and Ellen DeGeneres

August 5, 2010 Mailed acceptance of referral

August 6, 2010 First half fees paid

Follow You - (with special guest Brandon Heath) by Leeland