Sunday, August 29, 2010

The rest of the 2 weeks worth of Pictures....

I was about to finish a the last post that I had been working on for 2 days and for some reason these last 6 pics just disappeared. So you are getting them in a 2nd post :-)

Above: We went to the airport after Abay to greet the Bonner family with little "G". He was absolutely precious! It was our first airport homecoming since we got home and it was so fun to be on the other side (with kids). Mama Bonner was as emotional as me so I was relieved to know that I was not the only one who comes in fighting sobs (I did give in a few times:-)
Below: Mama holding son and greeting all the friends and family who came to welcome them home.

Above: We had a lazy Saturday morning. At one point all the girls climbed into Rachel's top bunk and snuggled and pretended to sleep.
Below: We headed out that afternoon to Ryan's football game. I snapped this picture of us walking back to the car. Whitney begged Rachel to carry her and she got her wish. I think Rachel is used to carrying kids and she likes to do it. As I have said before, they are forming a tight bond.

Saturday afternoon after sitting in the sun for football, we decided the pool would be a great way to cool off. This will probably be the only outing to the pool for R & J this season. They had a blast. So much fun that we had to leave after about 45 min. It was sensory OVERLOAD!

I hope you enjoyed all our pics. Stay tuned for more and for more updates. Have a great week!!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ups and Downs AND 2 Weeks Worth of Pictures

If you read my last post you read about how well things were going. I think satan decided to attack us after that because the next two days were HARD. We went into this knowing that there were some rough days ahead. As a very dear friend and mentor told me on Thursday when she was going through this, "Keep your eyes up on Jesus because the waters below are churning." Very wise advice! Yesterday and today have been much better and I am so grateful.

I do not want to dwell on any negative, but at the same time I want to be real and let everyone know what adoption really looks like. From the beginning you have to remember that these kids have undergone extreme trauma. We don't even have a comparison to what it would be like to go through what they have gone through. If you compare it to an infant or toddler, I think you get the best understanding. An infant can't talk so they only way they can communicate is to cry and kick and scream. That is similar to how these kids can act ( and did on Wednesday and Thursday). They don't know how to tell us what they are feeling or needing so they are frustrated and it comes out much like a toddler's tantrums. We were told that this is good and that they are grieving early which is a good sign. For one, we can get the hard and ugly out of the way early and on the other hand it means that they were attached to a caregiver and that that attachment can be transferred to us. In the last 2 days I have already seen drastic improvement. I am not fooled to think, however, that we are done with the hard days. There will be more and God will continue to sustain us through them. I told a friend the other night that somehow I had managed not to lose my temper and if only I could parent my other 3 this well! The prayers of many have sustained us...Thank you for praying for us!
I wanted to leave you with a lot of pictures of what we have been up to the last two weeks. We have had some great times and many "firsts". It is such a blessing and a miracle to watch these kids explore and see so many things for the first time. Over the last few days our firsts are...seeing a truck carrying many "makeenas" or cars on it, Mexican food (which was eaten with the tortilla being torn much like injera and used to pick up the meat, rice and tomatos on the plate), snowcones, mom's perfume, watching Dora the Explorer, swimming in a swimming pool...the list continues...
Right after arriving home from the airport the kids made their way out to the backyard. Rachel & Jordan were talking very fast in Amharic. I so wish I knew what they said!
Below: Sisters! Hayley shows Rachel her new room and Rachel picked the top bunk. It was neat to see how excited they were over their rooms and especially thier beds. So many things we take for granted!
Above: Some close friends who couldn't be at the airport came by to visit that night. Rachel was known to love babies and had fun loving on this one. Olivia (the baby) is a twin and also adopted...too cool!
Below: Sitting around the kitchen table together the first night.
Above: Whitney and Jordan "taking turns" on the tricycle. Whitney has hardly played with it before R & J came home. Now it is a favorite toy and the source of many sibling squabbles.
Below: One of my sweet friends has stopped by several times with "happys" as she calls them for either the kids or me. Rachel had fun loving on her little girl.
Above: Whitney holding my new neighbor's newborn baby boy. They moved here this summer from Ohio and already we have a tight bond. Another friend told me that she is part of God's provision for me during this season of life and I believe that to be true. The cool thing? Her baby was born on August 12, the same day as our adoption was finalized in Ethiopia at the US Embassy :-)
Below: Rachel has been a great big sis to Whit. She pushes Whit and Jordan in the infamous tricycle. Whit is really going to miss her when they are in school full time.
Above: On Friday we met some friends at the Abay Ethiopian restaurant. Their mom has been a HUGE mentor to me and the girls were super sweet to Rachel.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I decided to take a break from the reports on our trip to let everyone know how things are going now that we are home. Brent and I are a good team and he has been so sweet and mindful to give me much needed "breaks". He took all 5 kiddos to football practice tonight so that I could run a couple of errands. Before I left I thought I would take a minute to blog while the house is quiet :-)

We could not have asked for a better week last week. That is not to say that it was completely without some bumps or that these children are robots. They are kids and need to be loved, disciplined and redirected just like any other child. A very wise friend/mentor told me that you do everything with hugs and love and we have found that strategy to work well.

We were taught in our pre-adoption education that these kids go through the stages of grief that someone would go through if they lost a loved one. It is true. The "honeymoon" phase where everyone is on their best behavior and happy ended last Wednesday. My aunt (who stayed with me the first week to help...gotta love her :-) and I looked at each other in the car and said, "Well, the honeymoon phase is officially over!" All five kids were fighting and being loud and silly just like siblings do.

We have now entered more of the sad grief stage. For one child, tears were easy from the beginning. For the other, they have been much slower in coming. Instead of tears we had extreme happiness for days. I think the extreme happiness was a way to "put off" the sadness that was welling up inside. Today for the first time we had real tears. It broke my heart and I cried too; we just sat and cried together. I hope that in that moment it was understood that I grieve for them too. What breaks their heart breaks mine. They are no different than any of my other children. When something is hurting a child it hurts mom's heart too :-)

We have fallen into a great routine..."school" lessons in the morning, then playtime outside, followed by lunch. After lunch we have some more "free" play, then we read and have rest/room time until the other 2 get home from school. I am amazed at how much these kids already know. The know all their letters, numbers, colors etc. They can both write their names (the American names we are using). Rachel can sound out words and is starting to read some easy readers! We have been labeling everything in the house and their English is coming along at a rapid pace. We are learning Amharic at the same time which is fun.

A friend emailed me today and told me she had been lifting me up in prayer. I told her that just today I had thought to myself that someone must be praying for me. In my own strength I would have already lost my temper or ran to my room in tears. In God's strength, however, I feel great. I have yet to lose my temper and am far from despair. I think that when you are walking by faith the road God has for you, He is faithful to supply you with the supernatural strength and patience you need to stay on the path.

I want to close by encouraging anyone who feels the "call" to adopt, but maybe is scared, to step out in faith and go for it. If God is calling you to do it, He WILL supply all your needs to walk through it. I am living proof. Trust me, you will be greatly blessed and forever changed. Don't miss out on possibly the greatest blessing(s) God has for you! I am reminded of a familiar, old hymn:

Trust and Obey
For there is No other way
To be Happy in Jesus
Than to Trust and Obey
That is what it is all about folks...Trust and Obey...and you will be happy in Jesus!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ethiopia Part II

On day three (Wednesday) we had another emotional day. We went with 3 other families to pick up their children at the transition house. We rode along so that on the way there we could stop at El Olam one more time to take donations and let the kids say their goodbyes. They insisted on taking their backpacks along to show their friends all their new things. We were able to take 3 big duffel bags full of clothes, shoes, formula and diapers. We also had some matchbox cars, balloons and plenty of granola bars to pass out. It was so neat to watch our kids pass out all the goodies. They went through their backpacks and passed out any food items or other things that they could leave with their friends. It was truly heart warming as we watched them be so generous! We had brought Jordan a "monster truck" that you could "rev up" and then set free to go on its own. He loved it and brought it to show the kids. They giggled and laughed as they each took their turn making it go. In the end Jordan decided to leave it there for his friends to continue to play with...priceless moment :-)

After leaving El Olam, we went to the transition house to take the other families to pick up their kids. It was such a special moment to be able to share with these other families. We took pictures for them and celebrated as 5 more children went home with their forever families. Our van was packed as we traveled back to the guest houses.

On the way back we passed the Leprosy hosptial and decided to stop and shop as we had heard that the patients there made some great things to sell to raise money for their care. We were not disappointed! It was amazing to see what they had made by hand and to see how inexpensive it is in US money.

Above: A group picture of all the kids at El Olam.
Below: Rachel (Sifan) with her nanny and one of the babies that she loved so dearly.

Above: Rachel Sifan telling baby Benjamin goodbye. I got to hold him when we transported him from Debre Zet back to Addis.
Below: The kids laughing as we were playing with them and saying goodbye.

Above and below: pictures of the orphanage yard. The slide looks nicer in the picture :-)
Above: The bottom bunk was Jordan's bed. The beds were no longer than the width of a twin bed. I gues they learned to sleep curled up. There were also no pillows. There were blankets although not heavy and it got COLD at night. We had heavy blankets at our guest house and we were still cold! Rachel Sifan's bed is the top one on the left.
Above: Me and the kids waiting on a bench as the other families with us toured the transition home and talked with their kids nannies.
Below: A picture of the steps walking up to the leprosy hospital.
Below: This was a shed at the leprosy hospital where some women were working and I assumed lived; very primitive.

Stay tuned for Ethiopia part III. You will see the "Lion Zoo"...a zoo in a third world country is quite an experience!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ethiopia part I

Father and daughter's first hug

Our first night together at the guest house
Daddy showing Rachel Sifan pics of her new home

Jordan LOVED the camara; both to take pics and to have himself photographed!

Rachel getting her hair braided by one of the sweet girls at the guest house.

I have so many things in my head I want to share, but I know everyone is waiting for pictures :-). It has been a wild first week as we adjust, so forgive me for taking so long!

We flew in at 11:30 am on Monday and had an eventful day. We got lunch at our guest house of spaghetti (we ate a LOT of pasta while we were there). The other family we flew in with went to get their little girl while we rested at the guest house. It was hard to rest, but proved to be a blessing in the end. The plan was to go meet the birth mom and pick up the kids the next morning. Mom lived 45 km outside of Addis which took over 2 hours to drive when you accounted for traffic and occasionally road blocks of horses and goats on the highway, lol :-). The meeting with mom was a wonderful experience and one I am so glad we had the opportunity to do. She was able to give us insight into the life our children had lived with her including seeing the home they lived in with her. We took pictures, but do not feel the blog is the place to show them. It was a home she was very proud of; she called it her "family home." She explained to us why she named them as she did and that she wished for them a better life than what she could give. It was a very emotional, spiritual experience. One that will always be in a category by itself. By the time it was over, we were emotionally and mentally drained.

We had our driver (who is employed by our agency) with us to interpret and the orphanage director from the kids orphange to show us how to find the mom. She told us that the kids were expecting us that day so when we got back to Addis, we went to pick them up. It was late and they were all getting ready for bed. The scene was not how I had played it out in my mind. It was dark and we have very few pictures (but lots of video) of the actual first embrace. We were disappointed that we don't have more pics, but kept telling ourselves that this is not about a "Hallmark card" photo, but about these kids lives. We went back to the guest house and ate a late dinner, played and got ready for bed. They went to bed the first night with full tummies, new jammies and a comfy bed. Jordan tossed and turned all night, but Rachel slept hard. The next day we went shopping for new shoes and a few souvenirs. It was a great bonding day.

On Wednesday we went back to El Olam and I am going to do that in a post by itself. I have a lot of pictures of kids both with and without families. I can't show them on my blog, but if you are interested in seeing them, email me and I will send them to you and give you more info.

Monday, August 16, 2010

We're Home!

Our family of seven together for the first time!
We arrived home on Saturday with lots of people waiting to welcome us! It was so great to see all the familiar faces and know how many people were praying for us and excited to see us. Rachel (Sifan) was giggling out loud when she saw how many people were there to welcome her home. It was good for her to see how many people already loved her!

We had a wonderful, emotion filled week and I can't wait to tell you about it. Brent and I both went to Texas A&M University for college. It is a school very rich in tradition. There is a saying there that describes this rich tradition. It says, "From the outside looking in, you cannot understand it. From the inside looking out, you cannot explain it." We felt like that was a great way to describe this past week. For those of you who have gone before, you understand what we feel and "get" why we feel it. For everyone else, I am going to do my best to convey all of our experiences of this last week. Trust me, I never understood this feeling either! Watch for more posts coming:-)

Things at home on the first day went VERY well. I hope to let you all know more as the week progresses. To begin with, there are SO many things that we take for granted here in America. You learn that even more as you watch your children experience so many things for the first, escalators, elevators. automatic flushing toilets, garage door openers, hair dryers, air conditioning in the car, water and ice dispenser on the refrigerator, ice cream cones...the list goes on and on. What a joy it is to adopt older children. We first felt upset that we had missed out on so much of their early childhood, but these new experiences are definitely helping to make up for this lost time. I hope that as you share in our life, you will be moved to also trust God and take a step of faith and experience life like you never knew you could! We are so blessed and feel so privileged that God has chosen us to walk this journey with Him.
The three sisters sitting together on the floor.
Hayley kissing her new sister on the cheek.

Jordan sporting his new sunglasses he got as a gift at the airport.

Thanks to all of you who came out to welcome us and for bringing the welcome home gifts for us. I am not sure who gave what, but we really appreciated it all! We are so blessed to have so many loving and supporting us right now. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Last Goodbyes

The internet connection is very poor right now. We have been trying to get online with no luck. I woke up and couldn't sleep so decided to try again; was about to give up and then I got on.

Here's an overview of the last couple of days...........

There is one other family staying at the same guest house as us. All the other families are staying at the other guest house. Today we went over to the other house in the morning and visited with the other families. Then we walked to a restraurant with them for lunch. After that we rode with 3 other families to go pick up their kids at the CCI transition house. We went along because we were stopping by our kids orphanage to drop off donations and say goodbyes. Once again, it was very hard. It was good closure though. The kids took their backpacks and showed their friends their new things. The most precious thing was that they gave most of their new things to the kids there. We took LOTS of of the older girls took my camera and took pictures of everyone! The other families came in and loved on and played with the other kids. It was great. At the end, one of the other men prayed with all the children before we left. A few of Sifan's friends made her cards and gave her their picture and the director's phone number so she could call them. After that we went to the transition house and filmed and took pics as the other families got their kids. It was very sweet and I am glad we got to go. On the way there we saw Korah-awful. We are back home now and plainning to rest, eat and play. The trip is definitely life changing. It will be hard to go back to the way things were.

We had our embassy appoitment and everyone passed with no glitches so it was all good. We met another adoptive family there who will on our flight to Dubai and to JFK. Also, there's another family who will be on the flight to JFK too. Today we ate at a restaurant that had an electric hand blower to dry hands. I showed it to Sifan.....she had never seen anything like that and thought it was so funny. Later, I borrowed a blow dryer from someone and she was scared of it. She jumped back and then laughed at it. So funny to see how many things we take for granted that are new to them :-) Tonight we went to eat at an Ethiopian restraurant that has cultural music and dance. It was an experience. Somehow, since I was somewhat familiar with ET food I became the expert and had to order for everyone :-) Also, we went to the Addis Ababa zoo. Let me just say it was an experience! Nothing like what you would envision a zoo to be. We took lots of pics and will show and tell you about it later.

Today, we are driving 100km outside of Addis to see a very old church that has been carved from one stone. It is next to a large gorge. One person said it is like the Ethiopian grand canyon. I think it will be neat. It may be a little hard on the kids, but I think it will be good for them to see some of their country as they have never been able to.

We fly out Friday night at 7:30. There is a short layover in Dubai and then on to NYC. We have a long layover there. The flight on Saturday may be get in as early as 4:30 PM. You can check our flight schedule on Delta. From take off it's about 2 hour flight.

On Saturday, we will be HUNGRY for some good comfort food :-) The kids are eating anything we put in front of them and ALOT of it.

I need to go probably won't here from us again until we get to JFK. Can't wait to see you all........


Wednesday, August 11, 2010


We are unable to connect Brent's laptop to the internet here. Fortunately, our guest house has a laptop they let us use. Because of that we cannot send pics so you will have to wait to see them when we get back.

Yesterday was much less emotional. We did some shopping, bought some traditional clothes for the girls and some shoes for Sifan and Jordan (BTW....we asked her if she liked the name Rachel and she seemed to like it so I think that is what we will name her: Rachel Sifan and his nickname is "Yordi" so we have been calling him Jordan or Jordi). Jordan picked out some teenis shoes that light up and he is SO proud of them!

We were unbelievably tired yesterday afternoon so we just rested. It had rained and we had gotten wet and I was FREEZING so Sifan and I curled up in bed and she wrote things on paper and we looked at books and pictures. She knows quite a few english words and seems to also know letters and sounds as she has sounded out english words she has seen. Jordan, on the other hand, is in no hurry to learn english. He just smiles when we ask him to say something :-)

We all slept much better last night (didn't sleep at ALL the first night). I think we had too much to process from Monday. I would wake all night and just cry; I can't wait to tell you all about it when we get back.....I need to show you pics so you can fully appreciate the whole story.

We are planning to go back to El Olam today to take our donations and for the kids to say their goodbyes one more time. I know it will be VERY hard for all of us. I am going to try to take as many pics and get to know the kids who are still waiting as best I can to relay that info to anyone who has questions. There is one girl who ran out of the room when Sifan said her goodbye. Apparently they were very close. A few minutes later the director told me that she still has no family. I started to take her picture and then the director brought her 3 brothers over to also be in the picture. The sad part is that she is just as sweet and precious as the others, but she is less likely to find a home because there are 4 of them. I am hoping and praying that someone can open their home to these four children and as a bonus it would be awesome if they were in the Nashville area so our kids could continue to be friends :-)

The kids and Brent are outside playing and I need to go and join them. We are trying to soak in every minute, but are SO ready for our own beds, shower, ice and sweet tea!

In Christ,

Monday, August 9, 2010

We have the kids!

Hi Everyone,

I could write for a very long while, but don't have the time so it will have to wait. I cannot wait to share it all with you. It has been an AMAZING day! If you truly want to know God and feel HIS presence....adopt! I have NEVER experienced anything close to what we did today. We flew in from Dubai this morning, then had a break at the hotel for a little while. After that we drove to a town that took us about two hours to get to with all the traffic (both cars and goats and horses :-) so we could meet the birthmom. We then drove back into town after dark and went to pick up the kids. They are SO precious! My heart is full of joy and aches at the same time. It aches for their precious mother who made such an unselfish sacrifice and it aches for all the kids we left behind at the orphanage tonight. I can't wait to tell you everything. We didn't have much time with them, but they are excited, happy and HUNRGY! Jordan immediately started looking for food and helping himself to whatever he could find.

Will write more later.........

Saturday, August 7, 2010

On our way!

We are sitting in the JFK airport in the international terminal having dinner. We will be boarding in just a little while to head to out. The last few days have been so emotional and encouraging. We have received so many phone calls and notes and even visits from friends and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you ALL for each part you have played in this journey. We have felt your prayers. "No weapon forged against us will prevail." "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Please continue to pray and we will keep you posted on how things are going as best we can.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We leave in just 4 days and the reality of that is still sinking in! Satan is working double time against us and God is working triple time FOR us. It has been a huge encouragement to see all the faces of those that have brought stuff by for us to take to the orphans at our kids orphanage. I am hoping we have room to take it all, but if we do not I will pass it on to another family who will be leaving soon.

I know that we have been covered in prayer this week as I am totally at peace and have not experience any anxiety attacks (that I can be prone to when things are stressful). I wanted to share with you what has been my source of strength these last few weeks.

A few weeks ago I had the awesome opportunity to have 2 staff members of our church and one of their wives pray over me. Prior to the prayer time I had been feeling VERY oppressed and finally realized it was because I was believing too many lies the enemy was telling me. As my sweet friend prayed over me the Lord gave her some verses to give to me. They are in Isaiah 54:11-17:

O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. 12 I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all our walls of precious stones. 13 All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children's peace. 14 In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. 15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. 16 "See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. 17 And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.

Neither she nor I had ever experienced something like this as she was literally speechless in her prayer for a few moments and then felt as if a teleprompter went up in her mind with these verses on it. She had read these verses at some point, but they were not ones she knew well which made it all the more miraculous!

Many of you who know me know that I had my left foot completely reconstructed last year and that I am still recovering from that surgery. When we started the adoption process we thought that it would take a year or so and that I would be completely recovered by the time we got home with kids. God had other plans! Because of the issues I am still having I limp sometimes and still cannot run. The enemy was having a heyday reminding me that I could not parent 5 children and instilling fear in me.

In the first half of Isaiah 54, he compares the nation of Israel to a barren woman who at that time would have been distressed, shamed and humiliated. The Israelites had undergone great oppression during this time and Isaiah was telling them that God had not forgotten them and that He was going to rebuild them even better and stronger. WOW, oh WOW! My God gave me a personal message that said He was going to rebuild me even stronger! And, my children would be taught by him and great would be their peace (another fear I had had through this process). AND NO weapon forged against me would prevail. Why? Because I posses the weapon necessary, God's word, to fight the battle!

I don't know where you are in your walk with the Lord today, but please hear me: He LOVES you, He desires to know you and He desires to give you an abundant life. You need to understand that the abundant life is NOT about money and materialism, but about living with Him and in Him. Don't listen to the lies the enemy will tell you. Search scripture and see what God's word says about fear and worry (email me for references if you need to). Our God is so much bigger than all the problems we face.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms... Ephesians 1:18-19

If you have accepted Christ as your savior then you have the same spirit of strength and power living in you that raised Christ from the dead! My friends, we serve an amazing God and we all need to start living like it!

Have a great Wednesday and stayed tuned for updates from our trip (assuming we can update or have someone here do it for us). Our flight has changed slightly from our last post. We are now arriving at 5:11 on Saturday, August 14th on Delta #6399. We would love to see you there!