Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our daughter, the world changer

My daughter here in Ethiopia- she just turned one (on the day I arrived) and many people look at her body born missing legs and one arm and think "pity" and "how unfortunate" and "so sad." But she's already capturing people's hearts and shifting perspectives and bring unmatched joy.

The nun who runs the orphanage where she lives has been caring for orphans in Ethiopia for 42 years. I haven't even been alive for that long! I can't imagine the thousands of lives she has touched and the countless number of tragic and heroic stories she has witnessed. Sister Lugarta told me that when a priest called her and described Tizita situation to her, she just couldn't even imagine it. "I had never even seen a child like this and I just didn't think we could care for a little one like her. But then God touched my heart and we just had to take her."

We aren't the only ones who chose yes. It just takes a "yes" to what seems impossible for God to do miraculous work.

Sister said when she arrived, they all cried. Not out of pity, but because of her beautiful face and the joy she exudes. Changing the world, one heart at a time.

I met with our adoption attorney on Friday morning. He's worked as an advocate for orphans in Ethiopia for a long time and has a stellar reputation in Ethiopia. He was anxious to tell me a story about Tizita. A few months ago, MOWA (Ministry of Women Affairs) had decided to close down adoptions in Ethiopia due to political pressure. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia found out and said they had to form an Assessment Team first and visit several orphanages (and not just process paperwork) before any definitive decisions were made.

This Assessment Team included the Deputy Minister of MOWA which I assume means he is the head honcho in charge of major decisions regarding orphans in Ethiopia. They visited Kidane Miheret where Tizita lives. My attorney told me, "When they met Tizita, they had never seen a child like her. But when they saw that the sisters would take her in and care for her, and even that she had an American family that would adopt her... this shifted everything. Tizita was a turning point in the assessment and they decided to keep adoption open, especially for children with special needs."

Changing the world, one heart at a time.

And then I met volunteers at the orphanage from Australia and Malta and Sweden and the U.S. who had met Tizita back in March when she first arrived. They were anxious to meet me to talk about the effect Tizita has had on them. "Her picture is all over the world. And it's not even the picture of Tizita that touches people but the expression of the person's face as they hold her like they are being touched by an angel, a very special presence like they haven't known before."

Changing the world, one heart at a time.

And hopefully very soon she'll be home with our family, changing our hearts and our world. I feel humbled and in awe that God has chosen us. I feel unequipped and unworthy, but then I remember that God's not asking me to have it all together or to be Super Mom. He's just asking for a simple "yes" and I'm confident that all the unknowns that follow that yes will be covered by His abundant grace and provision.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Arrived in Ethiopia

The travel to get here felt brutal. Nothing even went wrong, but just the sheer number of hours sitting on an airplane and waiting for the distance to close between me and her seemed to drag on forever. It was a quiet night in Ethiopia when we arrived; I guess there's not much going on at 9pm on a Wednesday night. We arrived at our hotel and unpacked a few things, then quickly headed to the lobby restaurant for a bite to eat and to connect to wi-fi.

I slept fitfully all night, dreaming weird dreams and darting out of bed a few times in my classic sleepwalking style. I kept looking at the clock but time didn't move as much as I wanted it to between wakings- 12:15, 12:42, 1:30, 3:40.... Finally at 6:30 I was awake, my body all jet-laggy and desperate for more sleep but my mind and heart alert and bursting with joy.

Just a few hours. That's it! Four years of waiting and time is ticking the final minutes until I meet our daughter.

I'm excited, but honestly I still feel a little numb. I know that's just leftover layers of coping mechanisms I've used to get through the wait and unknowns and disappointments. But today I've committed to throwing all that off and being fully present in every moment while I'm here. My mind cycles through the "I have to leave her" part quite often, and that makes me want to just not get too close so it won't hurt as bad when I leave.

But no, I'd rather be a hot, emotional mess when I leave this place, knowing that I gave her all my heart and emotion and attention, bringing all of me fully present into every second I'm with her and the other precious people I'll see on this trip. It'll be worth it and I love knowing I have Jesus to sooth my pain on the other side when the airplane widens the distance between us. 

Love is always worth it. Always.

 We are off to breakfast and then later this morning we'll go to the orphanage. We have a full day after that, but I'll post pictures as soon as I'm able.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Referral News!

Four long years ago when we were a family of three, Elias was a toddler and we were younger with fewer wrinkles, we started the process for our second adoption. We knew the process would be long but were pretty sure we wouldn't have to wait as long as some people. I mean, we want to adopt a child with special needs so shouldn't that put us on the fast track?


This waiting has been the hardest wait of our lives. It's been a roller coaster of failed referrals (death of child, child wasn't really an orphan, agency miscommunication, plus a couple more), Ethiopia adoption changes as a whole, troubles within our agency, and just a long, long wait.

In the midst of our waiting, God gave us the incredible gift of our daughter Merin. Her name means "Gift from God" in Amharic and it is so fitting for her. I don't think I could have gotten through this wait as well without her presence in our family. She's brought such joy and grace and taught us to live in this very moment.

But still our pregnant hearts have longed for our other Ethiopian son/daughter.

In many ways, we chose this wait. It's our fault. Several times our agency director told us, "We have several healthy children available and you are at the top of the list. Are you sure you want to continue waiting for a child with limb differences?"

Those are really, really hard words to hear when all you want is for the journey to be over and a child in your home.

But God planted a passion and a vision in our hearts in 2005 to adopt amputee children. And in some strange way, the longer this wait has continued, the harder we've dug in our heels and refused to budge from this passion God gave us. Oh, we've questioned it, thought we heard it all wrong, wanted to give up, not adopt at all and just live peacefully and content as a family of four.

But I'm stubborn. And I really, really don't want to miss out on the best that God has for us. In this season of waiting I've grown to trust Him like never before. What used to be hands gripped tightly to a life I wanted to control are now hands lifted high in abandonment.

And that's how I know that this wait- all 1,461+ days of it- has been so worth it. Worth it because God was preparing us, freeing us up, showing us how to love each other deeper and more selflessly. Teaching me that His grace covers even the biggest disappointments. Proving to us over and over that He hears and He loves and He knows and He cares.

All of that to get us ready for her.

Our daughter.


She has the prettiest eyes you've ever seen and a smile that is captivating. Her joy and courage will change us. Will change you. She was born without her legs and one arm above the elbow. Her limb differences are what God is using to bring her into our family, but it's not what is going to define her.

Tizita doesn't have enough leg length to wear prosthetics, so she will use a wheelchair. Four years ago I wouldn't have thought that we were the right fit for a child in a wheelchair. That just wasn't in our "plan", wasn't in our comfort zone.

So that's why every time I think about her, I tear up and am filled with incredible gratitude for the awesome work God has done in our hearts and lives to teach us to live with more abandonment and courage to risk and say yes to this crazy adventurous life that God has for us. Not because I'm capable or able, but because He is.

We don't know yet when we will bring her home. Right when the Ethiopian courts re-opened after their annual two month closure, the Ethiopian government put a temporary halt on all adoptions through our agency. Disappointment clouded my heart and I just kind of went numb, knowing that our wait is continuing to stretch out for an indefinite time period while she is there and we are here.

But then God miraculously made a way for me to go on an unexpected, last-minute trip next week to Ethiopia with my good friend Jessica Honegger. Not only do I get to meet and spend time with my daughter, but I also get to be with the Ethiopian artisans who make the Noonday Collections jewelry and be with our friends Jimmy and Rachel Gross who run No Ordinary Love ministry. My two passions- adoption and care for vulnerable women and orphans- all coming together in one trip. I keep thinking about the phrase in Ephesians 2:7 about God showing us the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us. I am so thankful.

I've packed so much into this one post, but now the story is all laid out so I can build on it in future posts. Stay tuned for stories and pictures of my time in Ethiopia next week.