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). 

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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 Moment Before

The Moment Before

In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment. ~Frederick Buechner

I’ve been thinking a lot about the silence of those 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. Especially about what it was like at the end of that 400 years. Those days right before the angel appeared to Mary. The dark nights leading up to the star that led to the King. What were those like? After four centuries and many generations had come and gone, were God’s people desperate? Were they still clinging to hope? What astounded Mary more–the news that she was going to carry the Savior or the news that her Savior was finally coming?

Why would our God who has the power to speak a word and cause the seas to gather and the bush to burn and the stars to splay–why would He ever wait?

What if the wait is for us?

“Then Jesus became explicit: ‘Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.” John 11:14-15, The Message

For those of us in the wait, we’re about to be given new grounds for believing. We are in the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent.

Dear Daughter, what do you do in the middle of the story? 

Dear Daughter, what do you do in the middle of the story? 

It’s late and my phone battery is almost gone, but I keep staring at your picture. Baby girl, we got word early this week that because of things outside our control it may be next October to December before we get to come to you. I sobbed. So much that I decided to forgo the standard wad of toilet paper and just grabbed the yellow duck towel that was on the kitchen floor thanks to your big sisters playing in the water out back. I could fit my whole face in there at one time, but only after did I realize there were bits of grass on the towel too. Maybe it was the crying or maybe it was rubbing grass all over my face, but I woke up Tuesday with swollen eyes and a weary heart. 

What does a person do with the middle of her story? When the newness of the adventure has tarnished but the sweet union of the end is still far off? When you’re white-knuckling promises with bloody knees? What does a person do then? 

We got word Monday about a probable delay with travel to Ethiopia. Today I took Peach to the doctor to find out she has pneumonia. Again. Second time in three months. I had to call my niece and tell her we wouldn’t be at her birthday party. She was crying. I was crying. My Lydi was in the backseat crying. The poor pharmacist at Walgreen’s probably thinks I’m a mess. 

I am a mess. These past eight years of our journey to each of our girls, to your sisters and you, have revealed that in great display. I so desperately want the happy ending, the beautiful resolve. But He wants the glory. He wants my praise in despair. He wants my trust in hopeless days. He wants my rest in the wait. 

Sweet girl, I don’t understand why the long, long wait. But I know He is never late. Emily Freeman said in her book Simply Tuesday when she was talking about Abraham and Sarah and their 25-year wait, “Our part is not making the promise come true. Our part is to count the stars.” To count and remember the One who flung jewels into a velvet sky and sprinkled sand along the shore. To remember the One who made the Promise. 

I just snuck out of bed and looked out the window to a full moon and a smattering of stars peeking through cloudy striations. And I heard a gentle whisper, “Look to your crashing-wave circumstances and you’ll fear and doubt and drown. Lose yourself in comparison, and you’ll want to throw yourself a sugar-laden pity party. But look to your Promise Maker. Keep your eyes locked on Me, and no matter what the storm your Anchor holds. No matter what may come, you, my daughter, can press on.” 
There’s a card hanging on your wall written in Hebrew by the hand of my friend Emily. It says Jehovah Shammah. The Lord is there. This great star-flinger is holding you, and He’s holding me–all at the same time. Because of that, we press on. 

All my love,

Momma 

Dear Daughter, With a begging, believing heart.

Dear Daughter, With a begging, believing heart.

“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:2

Maybe it’s because I don’t have paperwork to do right now, maybe somehow that mountain of black and white typing made me feel closer to you, but today I feel every one of the 7,913 miles between Memphis and Addis. “Father, can you spin thread that far?” I asked Him this morning. Who am I kidding? He’s the Creator of the silkworm, this tiny worm which spins a cocoon of thread a few thousand feet long. Of course He can stitch me to her and her to me. Of course He can.

“Ah Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstanding arm! Nothing is too hard for you!” Jeremiah 32:17

I woke up with puffy eyes. The girls didn’t sleep well, and I didn’t either. But You are my Rest. Forevermore, You are my Rest.

“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3).

The praises in the waiting, the songs in the dark, the lyrics written with longing seem the most true.

“In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them” (Psalm 22:4)

Back to the stones, the stones to remember how He delivered them. Here I raise mine Ebenezer. I will remember your faithfulness. I will turn my eyes from my circumstances and look upon my Sustainer.

“Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help” (Psalm 22:9-11)

Sweet daughter, your salvation story doesn’t begin with us, and we aren’t your saviors. How could people desperate for their own salvation save anyone else? And we–your daddy, your sisters, and me–we are daily dependent on the grace of Jesus for our every breath. No, daughter, your salvation began before the beginning of time. From your mother’s womb, He has been your God. Before your cells divided or your tiny fingernails grew, He was your Father.

I remember the first time I stared the word orphan in the face. I was filling out our very first I-171, Petition for Orphan Processing written across the top. My stomach dropped, and I was faced with the reality of the way your story would begin. There are some people in the adoption community who don’t like the word orphan and don’t want it used. Without Jesus, that word is scary, separating, lonely, a scarlet letter of sorts. But with Jesus everything changes. Not for one day of your life have you been without your Father. He has been with you, watching over you, breathing life into you, ushering you an invitation to be his daughter. The same invitation He whispered to me, a fellow orphan, not by birth certificate but by way of birth into this sin-sick world. We all share the same salvation story. I was lost, and He found me. I was dead, and He made me alive. I was an orphan, and He called me His child. Thanks to the fall, orphan might be the name tag we all start off wearing, but Satan didn’t get the last word. His pen doesn’t get to write the last chapter.

We are nearing honeycrisp season, although the weather here in Memphis begs to differ. I’ve been praying (along with your village) for God to pave a way for us to bring you home faster than logic and timelines predict. But this morning a more fervent prayer ran scared from my lips. “God, beat down the bush, hack through the sky-high grasses, so we can run/wrestle/grapple to her, bloody knees and thorn-scraped arms. She is yours. Please also make her ours.”

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death” (Psalm 22:14-15).

“All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” (Psalm 22:29-31).

Since long before you were born to a woman in a country 7000 miles away, I’ve had a verse written in my prayer journal. “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

A proclamation of His righteousness to a baby girl yet unborn, that He has done it.

 

*Read our adoption journey from the beginning.

 

Dear Daughter, The Song We Sing

Dear Daughter, The Song We Sing

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image from abideinhimphotography.com

It’s raining and has been for a few days. Our own little version of a rainy season. It’s raining in Addis too. I just looked on my weather app. Rain as far out as the forecast will go. We got new pictures and a video (oh sweet blessings!) last week. You were bundled in a warm, pink outfit. We’ve watched the video approximately 789 times. There you are with our book, the baby board book we made you full of our pictures. In the video, you pat the book over and over with your beautiful little hands. Your Auntie Heather said you were patting us like, “There they are. That’s my family.”

Do you know, sweet daughter? Do you know we are yours? Do you know we’ve always been yours? Do you know before you were ever conceived I’ve been praying for you? And for your birth mom and dad. One of the blessings of a long wait is that I’ve gotten to cover you in prayer before your DNA was helixed, before your cells divided, before you ever took your first breath. What a gift God gave me in that.

Before we mailed the baby book to our agency so they could deliver it, your big sister Georgia had quite the time looking at it. So much so that it had more than a few sticky fingerprints on it. As I grabbed the book to head to FedEx, I almost wiped it clean. But I didn’t. Those sticky fingerprints are our DNA, sweet girl. This is the family God has knit you into. We are a hot mess, a deluge of female hormones (God bless your daddy for putting up with all that estrogen), and as imperfect as they come. Yesterday, your big sis Lydi asked me in the car if I mess up. I almost spit out the water I had just sipped. I then rattled off a half-dozen ways I had messed up just since breakfast that morning. This family, we are living and breathing Amazing Grace, and your story is part of our story. God has used you to unclench my hands, to teach me surrender, to quiet my hurried pace.

It was raining last night, and your daddy picked up Ethiopian food for dinner. We sat around the table, five of the six seats full, and tore off pieces of injera and filled them with spicy meats and Berbere sauce. We played Uno and read I Love You, Stinky Face a dozen times on the floor of the nursery, the room you will soon share. And we watched the runners at the Olympics, cheering on the Ethiopians and Americans. The rain poured down outside, and we snuggled on the couch. Lydi wanted to give me a back massage (yes, always yes). Peach was “brushing” my hair which felt more like getting bludgeoned with a blunt object, but she kept putting her face right up in mine, cocking her head, and saying, “Yeah?” So, how could I stop that cuteness? Soon, you’ll be snuggled right there with us on a stained, slightly lumpy couch that’s been a safe place for a decade of memories.

There are some well-worn books in the nursery–If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, a Dog a Donut, and so on. One yes leads to another yes and another yes and another yes. And I wonder if that’s a little like how this adventure with God works. With every trembling yes I give Him, He heaps grace upon grace. Grace to keep trusting. Grace to keep believing. Grace to keep hoping.

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Dear Daughter 

Dear Daughter 

 

Dear daughter,
It’s nighttime here. Early morning Tuesday where you are. The sun just rose in Addis. I love a sunrise–the cotton candy colors streaking the sky when everything feels possible. I just looked up the temperature where you are, and I’m wishing we could have your temperatures right about now. But the air conditioner just kicked on, and I’ve got your quilt right next to me. 

Yesterday, we made you a baby board book with pictures of us. I wonder if you’ll study every detail of our pictures like we’ve studied every detail of yours. I can see your chubby little fingers wrapped around the corners of your book, and it won’t be long, sweet girl, before those people in those pictures get to see you and hold you and hug you and love you forever. 

I started dreaming about your nursery today. I was weary of filling out black and white papers for days on end, and I needed some color in my eyes. I found a blanket made in Ethiopia, and I dreamed of us snuggling underneath it. A favorite piece of art for the wall. Speaking of walls, on the wall where your crib will go (after we move some shelves and furniture and paint!) I’ve taped up a few verses, and I’ll keep adding more until you are home. These are verses I’ve prayed for you for years, before you ever took your first breath. 

Sweet daughter of mine, I know there will be hard days ahead. Days of harsh transition. Family tree assignments that stir up tears. Seasons where you wonder  why your story started with pain. I don’t have the answers, and I can’t take away the pain, but I will hold your hand and walk through every scary, hard, painful day with you. And I will take you to the lap of your Redeemer, your Sustainer, your Creator. He will hold you and carry you and show you how the Author of Life can write a story. And He might start with the beauty of a sunrise. 

I love you, sweet E, more than you will ever know. I can’t wait to see what the sunrise looks like where you are. I’m going to go to sleep now, but I’ll be dreaming of the day when all my girls are asleep under the same roof. To the moon, E.