An Adoption Update

An Adoption Update

Dear friends and family,

This is a hard one to write. When I last wrote, I was upset because we needed a police report. How tiny and insignificant that seems now. On April 21st, Ethiopia issued a suspension on all inter-country adoption. Only ten days earlier, we had finally received our MOWA approval, the last hurdle or so we thought. The past few weeks have been extremely difficult filled with many tears and fears. I have had to surrender back to God this child we love so dearly and have waited for so long.

Things change daily, and information is hard to come by and when it does it’s usually discouraging. I’ve gone back through my prayer journal wondering, “Did we hear wrong? Did we take our own path? Did we disobey somewhere along this road?” But time and time again I see it in black and white on the pages of my prayer journal–His confirmations. His assurance. His direction and guidance. Certainly, we’ve walked this hard journey with much imperfection, sometimes kicking and screaming, but we’ve given Him our yes every step of the way. And that’s where we are right now–we’ve given Him our yes. He has given us a court date of next Tuesday, a chance to stand in front of an Ethiopian judge and tell him our deep desire to parent this precious girl. Could something change before next Tuesday? Yes, it could. Is a court decree a guarantee that she will come home with us? No, it isn’t. Our guarantee comes in the Holy Spirit being with us no matter what.

I’m packing our bags, and I’m packing a pair of gold dotted baby moccasins given by my dear friend Laura. I’m packing a small shirt that says “Love makes a family” and a onesie that says “Love your tribe.” I’m packing some diapers and formula and a muslin blanket her big sister Peach used. I’m packing a book called You Are my Sunshine and another called God Found Us You. Some might think it’s foolish to pack those things, especially with the news we’re hearing today. But I’d rather believe my God can do the impossible and look a fool to the world than look a fool to God and believe He isn’t above all, in all, and surrounding all. He is fighting the battle. I am His servant extending my open hands and giving Him my yes.

We need your prayers more than ever. Please pray that God would guard our hearts and minds. Please pray for our health and safety as we travel. Please pray that He would continue to give families favor with the judge. Please pray the judge would continue to advocate on our behalf and that our court appointment would go smoothly and we would quickly receive our court decree. Please pray we would be able to receive her birth certificate and passport quickly and without any issue. Please pray that this suspension would be lifted and that all parties would be able to find solutions to the needs of orphans in Ethiopia that honor birth families and adoptive families together.

We don’t know how this next chapter of the story will look, but we know the Author, and despite the pain and fear that threatens to steal our joy, we rejoice in Him. He is always worthy. Always and forever. Thank you for walking beside us on this journey.

With all our love,

Liss and Matt

Today didn’t go like I was hoping…

Today didn’t go like I was hoping…

Today didn’t go like I wanted it to. After waiting an entire week to get our court date (longer than usual because of Ethiopian courts being closed Friday and Monday for Easter), we anxiously awaited news of our court date today. Instead, we got word that court had requested a new copy of a form from our daughter’s first orphanage. So, we have to wait a little longer. I cried a lot today. I know it seems like what’s another week when you’ve been waiting for almost five and a half years. But it’s hard. I’ll just leave it at that. I have a feeling a lot of you know what it is to be on the roller coaster of waiting, no matter what your waiting is for. 

We went to IKEA tonight. We needed to get out of the house, and I didn’t want to cook. (And free kids meals. The end.) I got a little pale pink kalanchoe because I need to hold life and the promise of beauty from dirt–green grass, bluebird eggs, worms wriggling in freshly turned soil. When we got home, Matt dug up some dirt around our mailbox and the girls and I planted morning glory seeds by the last light of dusk. Halfway through I remembered we were supposed to nick the seeds before we planted them. Each seed is covered in a hard shell and nicking helps the seed germinate. There’s a gentle whisper there for me. This nicking process, this long wait, this hard struggle, is germinating something in me too. It’s painful, but I’m believing there is beauty ahead. And like the blue morning glories that will soon wrap their way around our mailbox, I’m clinging to that promise that He who began a new work will carry it on to completion (Phil 1:6). 

We’re coming for you, E! {our big news} 

We’re coming for you, E! {our big news} 

Sweet sunshine girl,I have some news for you. We’re coming. We’re coming, baby girl. Yesterday was a crazy day. Aren’t the best of surprises that way? We were at our final week of CC for your big sis Lydia. Your daddy had brought Chick-fil-A to us for lunch. I had my phone in my back pocket the whole time but with the swirling chaos of the lunch room and making sure I didn’t lose your sisters I never felt it buzz. Your daddy went back to work, and Lydia went down with friends to the grass for recess. Lottie, Georgia and I were headed towards the elevator to get our big school wagon downstairs. I pulled out my phone to check on your Auntie Liz, and I saw a missed call from our agency just a few minutes before. Then, I saw I had a voicemail. “Lottie, wait! Don’t get on the elevator yet,” I yelled. I listened to my voice mail, “Elissa, this is Alicia. I have good news. Call me back.” I started moving to the side hallway because my phone was cutting in and out and called Alicia back. After a few seconds of hold music that felt like forever Alicia said, “Hi, Elissa. I have good news. You have MOWA approval.” 

And then the tears. The tears. The sobbing. The heart racing. Your sister Lottie was crouched down in eager anticipation and when I told her we had approval she started cheering. We called Daddy to tell him. We made it down the elevator and out to the grass. Lottie bolted yelling, “Lulu! Lulu! You’re going to Ethiopia! E’s coming home!” 

The rest is a swirl. Phone calls, texts, emails, tears, so many tears. But I found myself out in the backyard on the pew we just put out there. I had my prayer journal in my lap open to your page staring at these verses I’ve prayed thousands and thousands of times. And all I could say was Jehovah Shammah. Over and over. The Lord is There. Jehovah Shammah. The Lord is There. 

Alicia told me we should find out our court date early next week, but based on what they have been seeing she thinks we’ll travel to Ethiopia mid to late May. That’s next month, sweet sunshine! Next month!!! 

Baby girl, we are coming. But you know who’s always been there? Your Jehovah Shammah. 
You came, I knew that You would come

You sang, My heart it woke up

I’m not afraid, I see Your face, I am alive

You came, I knew that You would come

by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser 

Nesting

Nesting

My phone started ringing. It was on the desk in our bedroom. As I rounded the bedroom door, I could see that it wasn’t a recognized number. My heart started racing. As I got nearer though, I saw the area code was 901. My heart sank. I answered and got an automated voice telling me my prescription was ready at Walgreen’s. I’m grateful my daughter has access to the medicine she needs for her asthma, but it wasn’t the call I was hoping for.

This is what it’s like as we await the call--the call from someone at our agency letting us know we have received our MOWA approval, that the time has come to go get our girl. Every weekday, I wake up in the wee hours of the morning praying until eventually I fall back to sleep. I ball her quilt up beside me wishing I was holding her instead. I keep my phone close by because I don’t want to miss it. I add eight hours to the clock all day long wondering what she’s doing. Has she taken her first steps? Is someone holding her? Does she look at the picture book we sent her?

The bluebirds we’ve been watching every day built a nest in our box, and today we found the first egg. A quick search on Google tells me the mother will lay one egg every day until her clutch is complete, and then the incubation period will start. The girls and I were jumping up and down when we found our first egg today. It felt like a gift for this waiting mom, a beautiful, fragile reminder that I’m not forgotten. El Roi, God who sees.

So, we wait. And pray. And nest. And we sing. We sing loudly and dance like crazy people. We are preparing our hearts and our home with praise.

“Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house ever singing your praise! Selah” (Psalm 84:3-4). 

The Last Leg

The Last Leg

We are awaiting one more approval before we receive our court date. It’s now been five years since we first started this journey. We’ve done a half-dozen home studies, put together two complete dossiers, had our fingerprints taken more times than I could count, and the folder that holds all our adoption related papers now weighs more than six pounds. We are currently updating our home study again in order to extend our I-171 for the fourth time.

This last leg feels like it might kill me. Through tears I told my friend who has walked the entire five years beside me that it feels like mile 23 of my marathon. As we came up on mile marker 23, the pacer I had stayed with the whole race told me that if I wanted to I could pick up my pace for the end. I told him I wanted to give it one more mile. I knew I could keep a faster pace for a little over two miles, but I wasn’t sure about three. I stayed with him for one more mile, and at mile 24 I gave my legs every remaining bit of energy I could muster.

“The scariest thing,” I told my friend yesterday, “is that I don’t know if I have two miles left or ten miles left. I feel like I’m sprinting, giving it everything I have but I don’t know where the victory is.” I don’t know when we will get the call that we have court approval. The only predictable thing about international adoption is that it isn’t predictable.

This morning I received a text from my friend, “There’s a picture of that sweet girl on my treadmill that I see every single day. You and I both know that the last stretch of the race is the hardest. I’m running it with you. And if you start to slow down, or can’t see the end, I will hold your hand. We are on mile 24, and I’m with you and for you. Your faith is going to be made sight. And if we have to crawl on our hands and bloody knees over that finish line–the race will be won.”

We would appreciate your continued prayers, especially since the crossing of one finish line means the beginning of another journey–the journey of helping our daughter heal and process and grow as she lives out the incredible story God is writing through her life.

“For am I already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

 

*photo by my dear friend Robyn Smith of abideinhimphotography.com.

An adoption update after our first court date

An adoption update after our first court date

Your prayers and texts and emails and sweet words of encouragement covered us last week. Thank you. Because of the type of case E’s is at this court date her file was opened and entered into the MoWA (Ministry of Women’s Affairs) court process. Our agency staff does not have to be at this court date. So, the update is that things went according to the standard plan. While we don’t have any earth shattering news, these small but significant steps are bringing us closer to bringing our girl home.

While this might seem like a tiny step when we were hoping for a part the sea miracle, our prayers were not in vain nor a waste. I can’t wait to tell our girl how on a specific day during Advent, hundreds of people prayed specifically for her. What a display of God’s incredible pursuit of her. And I’m reminded how we have no idea what God is up to beyond our sight in places and people and offices we cannot see. There’s a verse in Revelation that I have in the front of my prayer journal. “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls of incense which are the prayers of the saints.” Last week, I kept imagining that bowl, and I just saw it getting bigger and bigger as our tribe interceded for E. Our prayers don’t disappear. They continually go before the Lord Almighty because of our Great High Priest Jesus Christ. These prayers you have prayed for E are eternal, and I get chill bumps when I think of how God will use the prayers you have prayed over her life. I believe He is at work right now in Ethiopia in specific and magnificent ways whether we can see it or not.

Yes, it is hard to wait, especially as our five year mark of beginning our adoption journey looms near in January. I’m feeling every one of those months, even more so as we see our baby girl grow bigger and look older with each month’s pictures and medical reports. But this journey has changed Matt and me and even our girls in a way we could never have imagined. In a thousand ways we are learning obedience, trust, dependence, and the never-ending goodness of our God.

“The essential thing in ‘heaven and earth’ is . . . that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

Quote by Friedrich Nietzsche in Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Here are some specific ways you can pray for us in the coming months…

PAIR letter//This Pre-Approval Immigration Review verifies her US citizenship status upon entering American soil. We cannot receive our second court date until we get this. They told us it usually takes 6 months. We were submitted to PAIR late November.

Travel plans//We are making one trip and will be in Ethiopia about three weeks. E will join us after our court date at the beginning of the trip. We will hang out and bond in Ethiopia until her visa is granted by the US Embassy so she can travel. We are taking Lydia with us. Our other girls will stay with grandparents.

Bonding & Attachment//This is a huge prayer need. Our girl is going to go through much loss and separation in the coming months as she moves from her orphanage to our home. We are praying for God to supernaturally knit our hearts together and for the hard and patient work of learning to trust and depend upon each other.

 

As we enter into the final days of Advent, I read this in Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift, “And when we sinned and weren’t satisfied with what God gives, as if we refused to breathe air and died, when we longed for something different, something more, something better, He came and gave us Himself.

To know and trust God’s sovereignty means to be satisfied with what God has given me in this moment. Certainly, He invites and encourages me to pray fervently but in the same breath to live satisfied in Him. He came and gave us Himself. May the wonder of that never leave me. May that be the focus of my worshipping heart this Christmas.

He’s in the waiting.

He’s in the waiting.

Last month, I thought December would be awful. If I’m honest, I expected Advent to be a season to be endured rather than celebrated. I remember the week before Thanksgiving driving down the road and telling Heather that I couldn’t do Christmas cards. The thought of sending out a family picture without her in it brought a lump to my throat and hot tears to my eyes. I told her we could send a Christmas card in February or March or right in the 100 degree weather of July, so long as it had her in it.

But in God’s grace, this month has been filled with joy. As we hung her stocking, instead of fear and dread, God gave me a bold prayer. She may not be here with us, but her name is on our mantel. We’ve waited almost five years to know her name, to see those crimson letters embroidered on snow white velvet.

My friend Annie sent a song last night–Take Courage by Kristene DiMarco. The chorus goes, “Take courage my heart. Stay steadfast my soul. He’s in the waiting. He’s in the waiting. Hold onto your hope. As your triumph unfolds. He’s never failing. He’s never failing.”

My Hope has come. In the dark of night to a humble manger, He came. This morning Lydia was writing the words to Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'” With us. He is with us. No matter how our story seems to start or how it feels in the middle–Accident, Mistake, Broken, Lonely, Abandoned–He came and He is with us.

This morning I got a text from a friend who is praying for our E. She said, “I’m doing a study on the names of God and one in particular has stuck out to me for you and little E. Praying it brings comfort to you while you are not with her physically. Jehovah Shammah, The Lord is There. Praying that the Lord plants this truth deep in the heart of E as well.”

I immediately texted her back with a picture of a small white card with the name Jehovah Shammah written in Hebrew that hangs on the wall where E will soon sleep. And that’s why I love Jesus with all my heart. When every other religion gives a person a list of things to do to earn the favor of its god, my God left heaven, came down, humbled Himself, made Himself vulnerable to pain, injustice, and death, and dwelled among men. He came so He could be there–with the hurting and lonely, the broken and forgotten, the abandoned. When I could do nothing, He came.

In all that waiting, those 400 years of silence, many of God’s people had stopped hoping. But they forgot that God is not only a Promise Maker. He’s our Promise Keeper, and even more He’s our Promise. He’s in the waiting. He’s never failing. Hold onto your hope. Because He came. And He’s there. Jehovah Shammah.

*Top photo by abideinhimphotography.com. Thank you, Robyn, for capturing E’s story as only you can.

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