Thursday, April 26, 2012

Anticipation

We are really near the end of this.  I'm imagining more and more life with four children, toting Meryn around on my hip, playing with her and Levi together, how Levi will respond to not being the baby anymore. : )  My heart longs for her, even for a new picture of her, just to see how her hair is growing or how chubby her cheeks are, or if she's sitting on her own yet.  It's such a strange feeling, having three of your children on one continent, and one on another.  It makes it almost impossible to be fully where you are, in your heart or mind.

For over a year now, we've lived with the feeling of daily anticipation.  Looking every day at email first thing to see if there will be any information, any news about our child who is in another country.  It can be really exhausting, living with that kind of anticipation and expectation, and can really take over your thoughts at times, especially when the anticipated event or information is unrealized.

But for the last few days, I've been feeling like I can see through the cloud of anticipation, beyond this stage to the next, where we're a family of six, and my email doesn't hold near the interest to me that it does right now. To a time when I can wholeheartedly focus on being at HOME with my KIDS, because they'll all be under one roof.  Lord, please hasten the day!

But in the meantime, I'm preparing some goodies for those we'll see in Africa when we go pick up sweet Meryn.  Her special nanny is so special.  Her name is Aynalem, and she has only worked at the care center for about 8 months.  Meryn will be her first baby to go home.  So I thought I would start a memory book for her.  I bought a beautiful silk covered photo album here in town and loaded it up with pictures of her and Meryn, and some of our family and her three babies she's caring for right now, on the opposite page.  I also wrote to the other two mama's to ask them if they'd bring some pictures ready to stick in for their family pages.  Then I'm hoping Aynalem can show this to all the families that come for her babies in the future, and ask them to bring pictures on their second trip, for her to add to remember all her babies by.




I have a deep love and connection to this woman, because she is the only mother my daughter has known yet.  They are attached at the hip, I hear. : ) I want to bless her over and over for her love and service to our daughter, and our family. I want her to feel so treasured and special.  I want to try to relieve some of the inevitable grieving she will feel on this first go around of parting with a baby she's cared for and watched grow for 8 months.  I'm praying for her heart as she prepares to let go...


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Embassy Update: We've been Nairobied

Well, our finder interview didn't go nearly as well as we hoped.

We knew there was a pretty massive complication with our case.  For starters, our daughter was abandoned outside an orphanage. In my opinion, this is great!  It means to me that whoever left her took the time to find a place that they knew she would be taken good care of.  And naturally, the person who found her was an orphanage employee.  Unfortunately, the Embassy was suspicious of this.

The other complicating factor is that our daughter was not the only one left outside the orphanage that night.  The Embassy also felt this was extremely unlikely, that two mothers would leave their children together unless someone "coerced" them to do so.  Personally, I think there's a pretty big leap to an assumption of wrong doing with any real basis for it there.  I think it's perfectly reasonable and understandable that two mothers might leave their children outside an orphanage, the only known orphanage in a large town, in any given night.  But, this was just too coincidental for the Embassies liking.

So they felt our case was not clearly approvable.  It was forwarded to and received at the USCIS office in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday.  Now, we wait.  Some more. : )

I feel pretty confident that because we have already done the extra investigation, that once they review our file, it will be cleared pretty quickly. I don't think these circumstances will be nearly as difficult for them to understand.  Judging by those who've gone before us in Nairobi, we're hoping within 2-3 weeks we will hear from them that our case is cleared and approved.  Then, I will buy tickets.  Like immediately. : )

The Lord is good and gracious to us through this all.  We've had a peace that truly passes understanding, and know that SO many have covered us and supported us in prayer... just surrounded us in prayer.  We are so grateful for the body of Christ and how invested so many are in our little girl's journey home.  This week, he has continued to teach me out of the book of James.

"For every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."  James 1:17

As soon as I read this, I was struck with the reminder that Meryn's name means "gift from God."  I was so overwhelmed with knowing that she is truly given to us by God, that he gives perfect gifts, and there is no variation with him!  Nothing changes.  None of this is a change from his original plan.  Nothing has shifted.  According to him, it is all as it should be.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tapestry of Grace: Week 31

Julius Caesar!  One of my favorite things I love about Tapestry is that I am learning a ton!  Each week, I look forward to reading the teacher's notes, even though they go way beyond what my kids can understand right now.  I like to read it though, because it gives me not only the big picture, but a lot of details that I never got in my education.  I remember hearing the names of key historical figures like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, but honestly, I couldn't have told you whether they were Egyptian, Italian or Greek, when they lived, what they were famous for.  Shameful, I know!  But I am learning so much.  And I love the way Tapestry takes history and shows how God was using even the secular happenings to make a way for his plans!.  It truly weaves history into a beautiful "tapestry" that I'm really enjoying studying!

So we were all about Julius caesar this week.  His life was really interesting.  He compared himself to Alexander and felt like he came up really short... he wanted to rule all of Rome, even though it was a Republic. He managed to become one of the consuls, and gained all the people's love and admiration, making it easy for him to monopolize the power.  His murder was planned by multiple senators who were afraid of what he was planning to do in setting up and empire and handing his power down to his descendants, rather than allowing the people's choice to take over.  We also learned a lot about Cleopatra this week.  Again, another historical figure I didn't know much about, and it was really fascinating!  We had some great books to read this week!

 I love this. When Kiryn brought me her math to check over, she had taken the initiative to do what she always does. She loves to say, "Hey Mom, you know that time in Cars 2, when Mater......"  So this time she just wrote it on the back of her math paper.  Awesome.

We made Caesar gold leaf crowns. 

Levi modeling one of the crowns. 

Kiryn being a little grumpy...

This the key to the cipher. : ) 

The kids and Hannah made ciphers, like Caesar used to convey secret messages!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Letter to My Daughter

My dear Meryn,

It's almost midnight.  Ten hours before the man who found you will be interviewed at the Embassy.  And I can't sleep.

This morning, God taught my heart from Psalm 123.  He is enthroned in the Heavens, and I must keep my eyes fixed on Him like a servant girl watches her mistresses hand.  Servants don't watch their masters hands in anticipation of their master lifting it to do something for them.  No, servants watch, to anticipate their masers desires, to fulfill their wishes.  I can't sit and wait for God to move on my behalf. I must be waiting and anticipating what He has for me to do for Him.  Maybe tomorrow he'll lift his hand and tell me to go get you.  Maybe he'll lift it to say, "Wait."

For years, the idea of you has been in my mind and heart. I can't pinpoint the exact moment it began.  But there are some mile markers I know of....  One, listening to a wise woman tell of the blessing of their adopted son from Asia had been in their life.  That was the first time I realized fully that people adopted children from other countries. Then I traveled around India, and I remember a specific scene outside a train station.  A naked, dirty, little girl about two years old, with a string around her waist, tangled hair, no adults around, boring a hole into me with her wide brown eyes.  She was so desperately striking, I took her picture and for the first few years of our marriage, it hung in our house as a reminder to me.  Children need families.

A few years into our marriage, we heard of a boy in Africa who needed a family.  We both immediately thought, "We want him."  That didn't come to be, but it started us down the path of finding you.

At first, we thought you were in India.  But you weren't and God clearly showed us it was not India, but Ethiopia that we would find you.

Following his leading at every step, we began running.  But I grew far good dependent on myself and some abilities I thought I had to get things done.  I'd check in to get God's approval most of the time, but in my heart of hearts, I grew very proud and self-reliant.  For months, maybe years, I've lived with a very distant, very barely-alive relationship with God.

Which was not good.  For one thing, adoption is tough, and I've had so much doubt in God's sovereignty along the way, because of the state of our relationship.  And for another thing, it allowed me to begin thinking that we were doing something good.  Maybe even great. When in reality, we're simply watching our Master's hand and performing the task He gave us.

Because He Loves You, Meryn.  He did not and will never forget about you. I'll never fully grasp why He chose to bless our family with you, but I am humbled and thankful for the privilege of being your mom.  I know that we are not a perfect family, but I hope you will find your place with us, and will know in your heart always that God treasures you so much, He wanted you with us and us with you.  And he sent us across the world to bring you home, where He knew you belonged from the beginning.

And I want you to know that while I may have thought at one time He was using us to rescue you, just as Christ rescued us;  today, He showed me differently.  Today, I know that He is using you, sweet girl, to rescue me from my sinful self-reliance and pride.  He is using the path to you to refine me, awaken my soul to him again, and break me of my stubborn self-dependence, like only a journey like this could do.  Maybe we're rescuing each other.  Today for the first time in a long time, I was broken and honest before God.  The weeping, streaming tears, snooty-nose, face all wrinkled up kind of broken that makes you use every spare inch of your shirt to get your face dry.  The best kind of broken there is.  The one that lets you truly see God and yourself for who you both are.

I don't know what tomorrow holds.  But I know that our Father has gone to extreme, tremendous lengths to show His greatness, Hi spewer, His faithful love to us both.  And He'll be and do the same tomorrow.

From one fought for, sought after, treasured daughter to another,
I love you, Meryn!
Always,
Mom

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What Adoption is Teaching Me: How to Really Pray

I've been living in a real relationship with Jesus for about 15 years, and you would think I would have learned this before now.  I admit I've never really had the kind of prayer life I'd love to have, it's always bee something I've struggled with.  I've found it easiest to pray while writing, it keeps me focused and less rambling to be writing my thoughts. So I've always kept a prayer journal.

But lately, I just haven't even had words to pray/write.  I've heard others say things before about praying in faith, and having enough faith to believe God will accomplish what we ask.  I've read the Scriptures about asking Him and Him giving you the desires of your heart.

But over the past year, as we've waited for step after step to get us closer to bringing Meryn home, I've watched myself go through the following cycle.  We need to see something happen: fill in the blank.  I begin to pray, believing that God can accomplish this thing on our behalf.  This praying in faith, believing he can do it, inevitably leads me to an expectation that he will do it.  Then, often, we don't get the news we've been hoping for at the time we've hoped for it.  This always leads me into a mini-crisis of faith...

Since I've done this so.many.times in the past year, this last week, I've been so confused about how to even pray for this next step.  The desire of my heart is that we would clear Embassy on Tuesday after Embassy interviews the man who found Meryn.  That's what I want.  But I've been so hesitant to pray that, because if I pray, I will expect it.  How can I pray it and not expect it? That's not praying in faith...

And where I've been emotionally, I can't handle the "what if we don't pass" thoughts.  I get anxious.  I start to panic. I begin to hyperventilate.  It's a physical thing.  My mind is overwhelmed, I can't even hear my kids asking for juice.  I want to crawl under my bed and hide, and just wait for it to all be over.  The idea of this all not being over on Tuesday, of the Embassy not being able to clearly approve our case, of it being sent to Nairobi and dragging on for who knows how much longer... I just can't handle the thought.

So I've gone to Scripture.  God, how do I make it through this?

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

And there it is.

Let God know what you want.  And He'll give you peace.  A peace that surpasses all comprehension.  He'll guard your heart and your minds.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you face many trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith, without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For the than ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. " James 1:2-8

Yikes.  Those last few verse sure describe me to a tee the last few days.  Driven and tossed by the wind... double-minded... unstable....  That's totally how I've been living.  These passages together have given me a lot of clarity in to how to pray right now.  I need to let God know what I want.  What we think we need.  But I can't attach my faith to the outcome I'm asking for.  I attach my faith to God.  That He is good.  That He has the big picture.  That He will accomplish it in whatever way he sees fit.  I can't doubt that He is in control, and that He'll do what He ought.  That totally leads to double-minded-ness and instability.  I can testify to that. : )  Philippians doesn't say to present your requests to God, and He'll give them to you.  It says He'll give you peace.  Tell him what you need, leave it at His feet and in His hands, and receive His peace.  Man, that is so what I needed to hear!

Looking to the example of Jesus' life, in Mark 14, Jesus faced the most difficult struggle any human being has ever faced.

"They came to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to His disciples, "Sit here until I have prayed."  And He....began to be very distressed and troubled.  And He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death, remain here and keep watch."  And He went a little beyond them and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.  And he was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for you, remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will." Mark 14: 32-35

What Jesus was facing here was his own death, his own unimaginable suffering.  I'm only facing the potential of an extended wait to be united with our daughter.  But how Jesus prays!  He's weeping, He falls to the ground, He's sweating, He's distressed and grieved to the point of death.  He begs the Father to allow Him out of this struggle, but ultimately says, "what you will."  This is how I need to be praying right now.

I praise God that He is bringing me out of the fear and double-minded-ness that I've been living in for days.  His word has worked a miracle in my heart, and He has given me peace, as He promised.  Yesterday was the first day in a week or two that I've been able to function on a normal level, and be calm in considering the possibility of the Embassy not clearing our case on Tuesday.  Friday, I couldn't have imagined that.  (I'm ashamed to admit how weak I've been, but thankful he is strong in my weakness!)  He is giving me peace, and preparing my heart.  I am laying it at His feet, and believing that He will do as He sees fit, and He will prepare my heart to walk through whatever path He lays for us.

Thank you, Jesus, for your example, and your provision for us in your sacrifice and power over death.  I can't imagine facing life and all it brings without the hope found in God's word! 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tapestry of Grace: Week 29/30

This week, we did a catch-up week and combined weeks 29 and 30.  We got behind a few weeks back when we stretched week 25 over two weeks because we were traveling...

So this week, we learned a lot about the culture and life of the people in the Roman Republic, and how things shifted rom a republic to an Empire.  We read about Latin and learned some basic phrases, and common English words we get from Latin.  We attempted to make Roman shoes, but it never did get finished! : )

We've also been reading about Jesus in the Bible.  Luke got his own full "Reader's" version of the Bible this month, and has been having a time of reading a story each day in it in the morning.  He's really enjoying that time!  So far we're up to the miracles of Jesus.

I didn't get many pictures of this week, except for a crayon engraving we did.  So I'll post some photos of art we've done over the past few weeks!

 Artists see lines.  Leaf rubbings to observe all the different lines....

 Artists see form.  Using different shapers to build another form.
Crayon Engraving.  We colored a piece of heavy paper all over with crayon, then painted over it with black paint mixed with dish soap. Then scratched a design in it.  You can simply repaint, and rescratch to make designs again and again!  Fun!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Magnum P.I. is finished!

Good news! Our private investigator finished his work, and I received all his documents and summary over the weekend.  After pouring over it all again and again, looking for typos, misspellings, inconsistencies, things that don't make sense....  I finally think it is ready to go.  He did a really thorough job, and I can't find anywhere that I think he could have done more.  Our case is a really straight forward one without much room for question to it.

Except for one little fact that is just a fact.

It cannot be changed, it is there and there's nothing we can do to "fix" it.  We're not ready to share the details of this, but I feel it needs to be covered by prayers.  It is something that could have been avoided if the proper care and attention had been given at the very beginning, but at this point, it is too late and we just have to roll with it. I feel very hopeful that this will be something the Embassy sees fairly often and will not pose any problem in their review of our case.  However, there is room for it to become a very large obstacle.  So please, we covet your prayers.  Our investigator will take the files Tuesday morning to the Embassy, and after that.... we wait.

And now, prepare yourself for some brutal honesty.  Some soul confessions.  Or else go back to Facebook.

These last three months have been really tough for me.  Adoption is not easy, and every one told me to get ready for an emotional roller coaster. I think at one point I thought, "I've been through three pregnancies and a miscarriage, it can't be worse than all that."  Well, it is. I had a close friend tell me once they thought they'd just adopt because they figured it would be easier than having their own kids.  I think that is hilarious at this point!  It is a difficult journey, but one if God calls you to, is so worth it...

I admit that my faith has been pushed, and stretched in this.  I haven't come through it all yet, I'm still wrestling with a lot of stuff.  I'm struggling with reconciling human error and wilfull negligence and how that fits in with God's will.  Many good hearted people, seeking to encourage us, have said that this is all part of God's "perfect timing."  Most of the time, I confess I just think, "How can that be, when it's all a result of human hands, mistakes, inaction, that should have been done so differently?" At least that's the way it seems to me right now...  maybe time will give me a new perspective.

I know all the stories where God uses bad people to accomplish His will. I know all of that. And I find myself reading them these days to encourage me that His will does prevail, no matter how corruptly humans mess it up.  I'm just at a place right now where it's hard to figure out, and I know He hasn't forgotten us, but I can't accept (at least right now) that this is pleasing to Him, and part of His perfect will...

I know and trust that it will all work together to bring her home in the end.  Because God IS the Most High God.  He called us to build our family this way, He directed us to take every step that led us to Meryn. Even though the whole experience has not been the beautiful dream I had intended or wanted, I have to believe and have to trust that He's already on the other side of this, (as a good friend said) and however it's gotten or gets messed up along the way, He can smooth it out.  He can make mountains low, He can make valleys high....  He will make our path straight.  Even if His straight is a winding road through dark forests with bends we cannot see coming. : )  He WILL be glorified in all of this in the end.

This is an often-quoted verse, but so applicable to my life today:

"Trust in the LORD and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3: 5-6

Claiming these truths, praying this today.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tapestry of Grace: Week 28

We made it through three units, and began the fourth and final unit for our first year of Tapestry this week!

We began a three week mini-unit on The Roman Republic and Roman Empire.  First, we learned the legend of how the city of Rome was founded and the history of the beginning of the Roman republic.

We had a fun time making "maximus" basket this week!  : )




Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Embassy Submission: Check!

There are no words to describe how relieved I am this moment.  A few months ago, "Embassy" was a dreaded word in my ears.  How things have changed!  At this moment, I am so thankful and relieved that Meryn's case is out of our agency's hands and at the Embassy.  I received an email this afternoon from the US Embassy informing me that our case had been submitted today!  After 13 loooong weeks of waiting and pushing and struggling with our agency, the next step has finally been taken.

Due to several things, our family has chosen to hire a private investigator in Ethiopia.  For one, he will turn over every stone, ask every question, talk to every person who might have been involved in Meryn's story.  This will leave little room for doubt in the Embassy's decision as to her orphan status, and almost certainly will help our case clear more quickly.  I'm hoping and praying this additional thorough information will be all that's necessary and will prevent our case from being sent to Nairobi for further review, hopefully saving us 3-6 weeks of further waiting time.  Secondly, it will provide us with a much better picture of the circumstances surrounding Meryn's past and a lot more information to provide her when she is older and has questions.  This, to me, is invaluable.

If our case follows the pattern of others this investigator has worked on, we could be cleared in as little as 4-6 weeks!  I could be picking her up the first week of May!  Lord, let it be so!

The alternate option would be for the Embassy to still not be convinced of her orphan status, and so to send her file to Nairobi to the USCIS office for further review.  There is nothing about our case that is strange or troubling, it is a straightforward case. So in all likelihood if we were sent to Nairobi, it would just be a matter of time, probably 2 weeks before it would clear, be sent back to Addis, and we would get the go ahead to come and pick her up.

Please pray for things to continue to move according to God's plan.  I feel confident that we have followed his leading in all of this so far, and pray he continues to bless this process for us and for Meryn...

We're waiting for you, Meryn, and your seat is ready! :)


Monday, April 2, 2012

While I'm Waiting....

We're thinking of Meryn a lot these days.  I wanted to post some recent pictures of her.  Please be praying that our agency is able to get our file together to be submitted to the Embassy this Wednesday, April 4th.  Please pray...









I'm loving all this hair and chubbiness.  We're coming, sweet girl... we're coming...