Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweet Smile

We finished out the first day of meeting the boys playing with them.   At the care center the nannies feed them around noon and then they go down for a nap.  When the boys went for lunch, so did we.

Here is a picture of the street we lived on for the week we stayed in Addis.  We walked down this street to get to the other guest house where we ate our meals.

Here we are eating a meal.  We were so thankful for the amazing staff at our agencies care center ... including the cooks who made us many delicious meals.

We were so blessed to be able to be staying at the same compound they boys were at.   After lunch, the kids all nap.  I spent most of the time while the boys were napping gazing out our dining room window at the door of the room the boys were sleeping in.  While they were napping, all the little "crocks" were neatly lined up in a row outside the room.  Here's what the view was out the dining room window of the guest house we stayed at.

The room on the far left is a bedroom and the middle room is the bedroom that our boys are sleeping in along with three other little ones.  The room on the far right is the room that the kids spend the day in - they play, sing, dance and also eat in that room.

The boys woke up and we went to play more for the afternoon.  We had brought soccer balls along with us, which we played with every single day.  Throwing them over the clothes line was a fun thing to do with a little help from a big brother and sister.

The little boys did warm up to us and play with us that day, but you can just tell that their little hearts were guarded.  One of the amazing staff at the care center told us that the first days are the hardest.  I would have to agree, it was hard - but yet so amazing and awesome at the same time.  I continue to learn that this journey is such a mixed bag of emotions and looking through pictures makes me miss those little boys soooo much!  I'm so grateful to God who is blessing us beyond measure on this journey.  It was just this morning that Amanda texted and said "mom, I'm praying that we get an embassy date soon.  I miss my little brothers."  and then a second text that followed from her said, "but mom, my prayer is really that God will give us an embassy date when our family is ready, and I think our family is ready now!"

We played the whole afternoon with the boys until they needed to go for dinner - and so did we.  We ate and then walked back to our guest house.  Ryan and I tucked little b&b in their bed.  Buche was already sound asleep, but Burka was awake.  His sweet smile as we kissed him good night ended the day that we held our new sons for the first time!

Monday, May 30, 2011


Here's what we got to peek at and kiss that first night that we arrived in Ethiopia.  They were all tucked in and didn't open their little eyes but we kissed them, told them we loved them and then went to get settled and tuck in the other kids.  

So, after we got everything settled we were supposed to go to sleep. Ya, right.  I don't have any troubles sleeping normally, however that night I did!  Between traveling across the world, seeing two little boys that we've been waiting for so long to meet and now listening to dogs, chickens and other noises I was not used to I didn't sleep much at all.  At about 5am the church bells rang and praying from the Orthodox Church started. Breakfast was at 7am and we had about a block walk to go to breakfast.  I woke up the kids and Ryan and we got ready and went for breakfast.  It was yummy.  We had pancakes and porridge, toast, Ethiopian coffee  and tea.  Then ... it was finally time.   Time to go and hold two little guys!

First, the nannies saw us walking that way.  (You really couldn't miss our group of 7 - we seemed to stick out where ever we went).  Then we started to hear the words ...  "Buche, Burka, mommy, daddy".   Both the kids and the nannies repeated this over and over as we walked closer.  The boys seemed overwhelmed.  They both went to the back of the room that they were all in.  The nannies handed them to us.  I held Burka as he tucked his head in my shoulder and cuddled in tightly.  He was very scared.  Ryan stood next to Buche, who was pulling on his ears.  I thought at first that he might have an ear ache, but I think I figured out that he has a nervous habit of pulling on his ears.  They were both very reluctant.  The nannies gave us a mat and all nine of us sat together.  We sat together, not saying much at all but just admiring two little boys that were taking in each of us - Burka continued to hang on tightly, while Buche continued to push us away.  It was like time stood still that morning.  It was the day we had waited for. 

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"  1 John 3:1

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa- it means New Flower.  It's an amazing place to visit and there is so much beauty in Addis; just like the beauty of a new flower.  I've seen this video going around on blogs.  Check it out.  Made me cry as I'm missing Addis ...

The City of Addis - A short documentary from Session 7 Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our Journey to Ethiopia

Wednesday May 11, 2011.  The day we left for Ethiopia with our hearts full of all sorts of emotions.  We left our driveway at 8am and took off on our 2 1/2 hour drive to Minneapolis - the airport that we flew out of.  We left in our suburban, pulling a trailer.   Crazy, but that's how 7 people with 14 "checked" bags, 7 carry-on's and 7 personal items roll.  We purposefully brought as many bags as we could because many of them were filled with formula, diapers, wipes, baby cereal ...  things we were leaving at in Ethiopia.  We would do it exactly the same way again, but it is a task to handle so much luggage - however, we quickly learned that the task it took to handle the luggage was nothing when we saw the need first hand for the items we brought with us to Ethiopia.

We met a friend of ours in Minneapolis, and he brought us to the airport and then took our vehicle and trailer while we were gone so we knew it was safe and didn't have to pay for parking.  Thanks, John!  

We flew from Minneapolis to Montreal Canada.  We had a couple hour layover in Canada - just enough time to stretch, get a bite to eat and board for a 7 hour flight to Amsterdam.   We had just a few hours in Amsterdam.  The time change from home to Amsterdam is 7 hours so we were starting to adjust to our new time zone for the week.  

Next stop - Khartoum Sudan where we were stopping to refuel the plane.  It was 107 degrees when we landed in Khartoum.  Some of the passengers on the plane got off in Khartoum and some stayed on while the plane was fueled up.  After about an hour we took off  for Addis Ababa.  

Ryan usually took the lead and I took the rear.  I loved this scene of the Ryan and the 5 kids.  I am so blessed.

We landed in Addis around 8pm on Thursday May 12th (Ethiopia time).  The airport was a bit stressful.  Ryan and I already had our visa's but the kids didn't, so we went through the line to get them a visa.  We were able to visit with a gentleman from KY that was on his way to Hosanna Ethiopia on a mission to provide clean water.  His home church was the church that was hosting the Christian Alliance for Orphans Conference that our friends were at on that same day.  It is a small world.    After getting visas, we exchanged some US dollars for birr and then stood in line for customs.  

After making it through customs it was time to gather our 14 checked bags, keeping track of all the carry-ons we had.  All of our bags made it with us, we had them on carts (3 carts to be exact).  Zachary, Amanda and Hannah were each pushing a cart while I was keeping track of Grace and Greta.  In Addis, all of your luggage needs to go through a security scan as you leave the airport.  So,  Amanda stepped right in and started to put them through the scanner as Ryan stood on the other end of the scanner to catch them and stack them back up so we could leave the airport.  They worked great as a team while the rest of us did what we could do to help however, like any airport scene seems to be - it seemed like chaos!  Then finally, we were back together and ready to head out - until we realized we were missing one bag.  It just happened to be Ryan's carry-on with half our cash and all of our camera's/ video cameras.  Ryan asked the airport employees what we could do about this  - to which the response was "We don't have any idea who takes the bags ... sorry".  This opened the flood gate of tears for one of the girls and sent Ryan in a panic to find the bag.  I pulled the kids aside and Ryan was on a mission.  The kids and I prayed, while Ryan searched and after realistically about 15 minutes but what felt like hours, I look up and see Ryan lifting an Ethiopian man off the ground in a hug.  He had taken our bag on accident and was bringing it back trying to find out whose it was.  God does take care of us in the big and little things.

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

Our driver was right there waiting for us at the airport.  We loaded our bags up on the top of the van while the kids loaded in the van and we were off on our first drive (about 10pm and dark) through Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  We stopped at a grocery store and bought some bottled water and then off the our guest house - where our driver lead us peek at little B&B for the first time.  We got to go into their room and find them sound asleep together on the bottom bed of bunk beds.  We gave them a kiss and time seemed to stand still.  They were beautiful!  

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.:  Psalm 34:8

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some of us are home...

Thanks for your prayers everyone.  I'm humbled by the people that God has put in our lives and so thankful for each of you.  

And, some of us are home from Africa.  The little boys needed to stay in Africa until our next trip.  As good as it is to be home, my heart longs to be in Africa.  Ethiopia is a beautiful country.  Ethiopian's are beautiful, amazing people.  And ... We passed court!  We are now legally the parents of two adorable little boys.  We spent the week playing with B&B, seeing and experiencing Ethiopia and meeting new friends.  I was a bit nervous about all 7 of us traveling, but I have to admit that we worked together quite well.  Of course, we had our moments of breakdowns and tense times, but overall I was very proud of how the kids worked as a team.

Our agencies Africa team that work at the care center the boys are staying at are amazing!  The boys love the nannies, other staff and seem to have a special relationship with one of the guards.  It was incredibly hard to leave them, but  I'm praying that they have a very special time with each the staff in Ethiopia while we await their embassy date to bring them home.  

More later ... after the kids are taken care of, some clothes are washed, paperwork is done and ...  well, all those daily things that just need to get done are at least started.  I'm learning that God is such an amazing author of stories.  I can't wait to tell the story that He wrote in our lives this last week in Ethiopia.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We are off!

We are packed.  We are ready.  We are off to the last night of sleep in our beds and then onto the journey that we have been waiting for a long time to happen!  We get to see little b&b!  We get to hold  precious b&b!  My heart is brimming with excitement and full of joy!

We are so humbled by all the people that have supported us and are praying for us.  THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.

Here is a few prayer requests -

Please pray for a safe, smooth flight and especially for our kids to have patience and that we have fun as a family on the plane ride.

We will meet b&b for the first time on Saturday morning.  Please pray that their hearts are being prepared and that we will bond in a special way this week.  It might not look like anything - if fact, we are prepared for there to be some push back on the twin's part, but I believe we serve a big God that has things all under control and that he is working on all of our hearts even right now before we have met them.

On Monday the 16th we have court.  Please pray that we pass court while we are still in Africa.  We know it is possible that we might not (which is not a big deal for those of you who are not familiar with adoptions in Africa right now).  Please pray that our MOWA letter is in because that is likely the thing that would hold up passing court if anything does.

Please pray for health and safety while we are in Africa.

And, please pray for our eyes to be open to see what Jesus wants us to see in Ethiopia.

Finally, pray for what ever the Holy Spirit leads you to pray for ... God is so much bigger than my prayer list, who knows what He will be calling his people to pray for :)

We are praying for our family and friends at home as well as the Christian Alliance for Orphans that is happening in Louisville KY this week/end.  What an awesome time it will be!  We have friends leaving for there tomorrow.  We're praying for you - and can't wait to hear how your week/end together at the conference went!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Life's a Journey

Well, it is "the week"... the week we fly out for our court date for b&b in Ethiopia.  The week we get to meet b&b.    I'm hoping and praying we pass court on the 16th ... and in that case, next week will be the week that we legally become a family of 9.  I like that! No, I love that!

Yesterday was Mother's Day.  I am so blessed to be the mom of my kiddos! It was a wonderful day - starting with breakfast in bed and beautiful cards and drawing for the kids.  This year was a new first for Zachary.  Yes, a first for my 16 year old ...  maybe "firsts" never end in life.  Zachary went out and bought a Mother's Day card without Ryan reminding him.  He was able to drive to the store, buy it and he gave it to me yesterday afternoon.  The handwritten "mommy" on the outside of the card was enough to make this emotional mom cry.  Then I opened it up and it made me laugh.  The girl's handmade cards were versed with warm and fuzzy "I love you mommy" poems and sayings.  They are so touching and show the beautiful hearts of my sweet girls.  The outside of Zachary's card said, "Mom, you've got that special something that makes you a great mother..."  The inside "A great kid - ME!"  I love that boy - and he is a great kid!

I'd be lying if I said I have not struggled this weekend.  I'm learning that the journey of adoption is really bittersweet.  My mind wondered many times to two little boys in Ethiopia, that have recently left the orphanage they have know for about a year, the nannies they have know for about a year, and have been moved to our agencies care center.  A new place for them - new people for them to see - new caregivers to take care of them - a different language for them to hear.  No mommy to be with them this Mother's Day.  .

Life is a journey!  I had a road that I journeyed down a few years ago.  It started in Sept of 2007.  I thought I finished that journey in May of 2008.  That Sept. I decided that I needed to physically "get healthy".  I lost about 80 pounds on that journey from Sept 07 - May 08.  I discovered that I am an emotional eater during that time and that I really had little self control in that area of my life.  I'm not proud to admit that, but that's what it was for me.  This last week has I feel like I've stepped back into old habits and ate everything in sight.  Yikes!  Why, not sure.  I know how much better I feel when I eat healthy.  I'm going to chalk it up to crazy emotions and move on in God's grace.  The whole thought process is so sad to me... I struggle with eating too much and their are others that do not have enough to eat to nourish their bodies.  I'm going to continue to walk down this journey of life ... and continue to be reminded the work in progress I am.

We are starting to count down when we board a plane for Africa in hours now. How exciting is that!   This is what we've been waiting for and I'm overjoyed that the time is here.  We will soon be on the other side of the world!  We will get to see the country we've grown to love- see b&b - hold them and tell them that we love them!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  

Happy Mother's Day, Virginia!

We love you both!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Hannah!

Today is Hannah's 12th birthday.  It seems like yesterday she was a baby that we were rockin' in the rocking chair.  She is going into a beautiful young lady.  

She is a sweet heart.  She's quite serious - in a good way.  Hannah has a special place in her heart for little kids and takes such good care of them.  I can't wait to see how she bonds with her two new brothers!  She is excited to spend a week caring for the kids at the transition house we will be staying at in Africa.

Hannah is learning to play Violin.  She works very hard at it and I love listening to her play.  She also took up volleyball this year and it was so fun to watch her get better as the year progressed.  Hannah is very determined.  If she has her mind set that she can do something, nothing will stop her until she accomplishes what she set out to accomplish.

She's such a blessing and I'm so glad she's my little girl!

I'm so proud of you Hannah.  I love you.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In just days ...

In just days ...  Less than a week ...  We will be boarding an airplane and heading off to Africa.  We have suitcases laid out.  We have the formula that we received from the shower that my sweet friends put on for the boys stacked up ready to pack and bring with us.  We have all the necessary paperwork we need tucked away in a carry on bag.  We have photo albums full of pictures of us and the boys ready to give to the twins when we are in Africa.

I've been preparing my overjoyed heart to accept that we will get to love on the boys for a week and then need to leave them there until we hear about when our Embassy Appt is and go back to get them.  I've been trying to let go of any thoughts about how the boys will react to us meeting them and comprehend how this is really a life long journey that we are on.  Also, we don't know that we will not see any birth family on this trip.  On our second trip there is time set aside specifically to meet with birth family- which I'm so thankful for.  But, we've been told by our agency, that it is not impossible that we might run into birth family either at court or saying goodbye to the kids at the transition home.  They reminded us that if we get to see any birth family on this trip we should count it as a blessing. We will.

Speaking of court.  Our court date has changed.  So, if you are praying over our court date - it is no longer May 18th.  It is on May 16th.  I'm so thankful that we were already going to be in country on that day.  We do not need to change our airline tickets around, which would have likely meant that the kids would not have been able to go with us.  We used airline points for quite a few of the kids' tickets, and once they are used we do not think there is anyway to transfer to a different ticket.  I'll take that as another confirmation that the kids are supposed to be with us on this trip.

And... I'm overwhelmed with the support that we have been given.  Dear friends that we've know for a long time now have reminded us of truth and are covering us in prayer.  I've received emails, calls and and notes.  Thank you for your encouragement and support.  New friends that are on the journey of growing families through adoption that have sent notes with encouragement,  are praying for us (people that I didn't even know that were following my blog and are praying for us - isn't the body of Christ amazing!) and have offered valuable advise and pointers about being in Ethiopia.  I am very humbled ... Thank You Friends!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Adopting Gods Dreams

About a year ago I found myself sitting at The Christian Alliance for Orphans Conference with some dear friends. It was a few days of really starting to dig into what it means to stand up for the orphan.  The last year I've spent much time thinking and praying about the orphan.  It seems so complicated to me at times.  It seems so messy to me at times.  There seems to be such controversy on what the best way to care for the orphan is and means and how that looks at times.  I believe there is much spiritual warfare involved when it comes to taking care of the orphan.  I'm such a work in progress and will always be and I'm so thankful that I have the Lord to lean on as I try to digest what justice is and looks like.

So, it was at this conference that I heard Mary Beth Chapman speak (along with many other amazing people).  One of the things that she said stuck with me and I can still hear her saying today.  She said - we need to adopt God's dreams.  So, when I started this blog, it seemed right to title my blog Adopting God's Dreams.  To me it meant, "Rachael - you need to set aside your selfish ways and see the bigger more amazing plan that God has already planned for you."  I need to adopt God's dreams because they are so much grander and full filling than mine could ever be.  I'm learning that I miss out big time when I am not willing to adopt God's dreams.  But, that doesn't mean that I don't struggle with this whole concept.  This week has proven to be a struggle.  This week as my heart is leaping for joy that in just days I will be able to do what I've been waiting to for a year now - hold in my arms the children that the Lord has given me. Now, coming off of a weekend that our daughter shared in front of a whole church full of people how she has gone back and forth on adoption for our family and now God has reveled Himself so powerfully that she can not doubt anymore that we were not meant to bring home two precious little boys and call them our own... I have struggled with ... fear.  Fear and doubt.  But ... Strength Will Rise as I lean on my God.

If you would like to see the confirmation service/testimonies you can watch it here. Amanda was in the "Where are you going by Bobbie Batsole (10:30am)" choice.



Fear and doubt.  Yuck!  There is no doubt in my mind that we were called to adopt.  There is no doubt in my mind that God has lead us to two precious little boys in Ethiopia.  But, I've found myself questioning the events that have happened in our world over the last few days and wondered if we should be traveling internationally with our 5 children.  There are new warnings out in regards to traveling that I started to become fearful about.  I started doubting that our whole family was supposed to be traveling together to Africa.  When I let myself get into being "afraid" I start thinking up all kinds of "what-ifs".  It is in these times that I am so very grateful for friends and family - there to remind me of the fact that God is a big God and so much more powerful than anything in this world.  I do not need to be afraid.  I've been reminded by my sweet mom that God is in control and that we've seen his hand in this process all along.  I've been reminded by a dear friend that our hope is in the maker of heaven and earth.  The maker of heaven and earth - wow!

Today am praying to the maker of heaven and earth for protection on our journey and trusting that He is in control. I'm reminded that I have an all powerful God to put my trust in.  I'm reminded that I need to set aside myself and adopt His dreams - and really, I can not image the amazing dreams He has planned for us over the next weeks.  We get to go to court asking to be legally parents of two beautiful little boys.  I get to hold in my arms two little boys that I have been holding in my heart since I saw their picture for the first time on December 23, 2010.  So, just like Mary Beth Chapman taught me ... I need to adopt God's dreams. I can not live in fear.  I was reminded in many ways this week that I need to trust.  Like Bobbie shared in her message on the confirmation video - "Where are you going?"  - Where am I going?  In the next week I'm going to Africa to walk down the next steps to call two little boys mine.  I get to have my husband and 5 children with me - we get to do this as a family.  The maker of heaven and earth will be right by my side.  And, when my time has finished out on this earth, "Where am I going?  To join the maker of heaven and earth in heaven.  Wow - how amazing is that!  The joy of the Lord is my strength.  To God be the Glory!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Miss Amanda

Our Miss Amanda was confirmed this weekend.  What an amazing girlie God has given us!  She shared her testimony in church yesterday.  We were so proud of her.  Thank you Lisa and Nancy for loving on her and being there her for the last few years.  You are a blessing beyond words.

Thanks for sending us this picture, Jen.  We were getting ready to pray over Amanda during the service. I'm so thankful for sweet friends that God has placed in our lives.  Thanks for joining us in prayer, Laruen.

We are so thankful for family and friends that helped her celebrate - some in spirit and some physically present.  Thank you for loving Amanda, praying for her and being there for her.

How special is it to have a great grandpa to hug on your confirmation day...

Jack Connor and Brynn hung out with us for the day too.  They didn't want their picture taken and we had some camera malfunctions (or is it the camera operator error??)  and we didn't get any pictures of them except his one.  Will you join us in praying for our precious little nephew.  He is having some medical tests done on his little heart today.  Isn't he adorable.

And to my dear Amanda...  You are on a journey.  An amazing journey.  Keep looking to the Lord to light your path, princess.

"I can do all this through him who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:13