Monday, January 28, 2013

On the edge

I feel like I am on the edge of this line where I'm peering over into this new future life of mine where Tizita is home with us and I have three beautiful kids- daughters that play together and a brother that roughhouses and protects and loves. But even though I think my toes are right up against that line because the new reality is allllllmost here, I just keep stubbing my toe and can't cross over.

Ok, so a weird analogy but nothing here makes sense anymore because it's all just so crazy at this point. We finally got the MOWA signatures that we needed but not because the guy actually showed up at his office to sign them. By the grace of God he allowed my agency to drive to his location (his house? another job site?) and he signed them late in the afternoon/evening on Wednesday.

Thursday was a holiday so nothing was done.

Then Friday was the easy part where the agency took the signed documents to get the official birth certificate. Only the "this will only take 20 minutes" turned into a whole day affair with the office worker literally refusing to produce the birth certificate even after her boss instructed her to do so. Honestly I think she was just power hungry and made the agency worker produce additional unnecessary documents and finding errors in all of them the rest of the day.

At this point I decide I'm fed up so I get in a taxi with plans to barge into this woman's office in a very loud and demanding sort of American way. I and my country were spared the embarrassment though because the birth certificate was released right at that time so the taxi turned instead and headed toward Immigration Office where I would meet my agency to get the passport.

The gates were closing as I walked up but I talked my way through and found my agency peeps where they then talked their way past all kinds of people saying "no" and within the next hour we were the only people left on a late Friday afternoon but walked out with all the paperwork processed (not submitted) and with the Director's signature authorizing an "urgent" passport.

There were lots of tears (mine and Tizita's) to get us to that point but I was satisfied with having tried our hardest and getting at least half the passport work done.

Friday night my sisters arrived and all was right in the world again. I felt so relieved to have them here to laugh with and to have their help with Tizita and keeping me sane in the membrane. We had a great weekend together shopping and exploring and eating delicious food.

Today (Monday) morning we headed early to Immigration to officially submit the passport paperwork. Unfortunately we couldn't get the passport within the same day, but they have promised it to us at 11am on Tuesday. My agency will then rush it over to the embassy to beat their 3pm deadline. (And by rush I mean driving in crazy, erratic traffic while dodging people, goats and sheep).

Just when I thought that we were almost across the finish line, the embassy called this afternoon to tell me that they found an error in the physician's medical report on Tizita. So now once the passport is received at the embassy tomorrow afternoon they will make a copy of it to send with the medical report via a courier and have the physician correct the mistake.

The courier will then bring the paperwork back to the embassy and if it gets there by the 3pm deadline on Wednesday, Tizita gets the visa and we get on a plane a few hours later!

I don't even need to tell you the obvious million reasons why it's very possible that none of this will happen as planned.

But I'm choosing PEACE and believing that God wants to just keep doing the impossible for Tizita. We have zero contigency plans because we're just peaceful that it'll all work out somehow and all four of us will board the plane together on Wednesday night.

I sure can't wait to cross that line into my new life. In the meantime, please continue to pray for miracles and peace for all of us.

Breakfast time (and I always make that face when I'm feeding a baby. Why?)

Stroll through the crowded market this evening

Lentils, beans and spices

With our Ethiopian sister (Elias' Aunt) at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant

The Aunts with Tizita

Coffee Ceremony in our guesthouse. We enjoyed coffee with Kenyans, Dutch, Irish, Italians and Ethiopians!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hurry up and wait

"Hurry up and wait" is sort of the theme of any adoption process. Parents fly through paperwork only to wait for a response. Race through fingerprinting and then wait for results. Act immediately and promptly to any blip of an email from their agency only to get no or slow response in return.

We've hurriedupandwaited for 4.5 years now with this adoption and so it's sort of become the norm for us. So to be real honest, it was a HUGE surprise for us when the embassy agreed last week to expedite our case.

I thought that we had a decent case: child missing three limbs, respiratory infection, boils on her back, etc. But still all we asked for was permission to grant the medical appointment before the passport. We thought this would help decrease the average 2-4 month wait time between court and embassy just a little.

So it was a huge surprise when we got an email back from the embassy a few hours later saying that they would expedite our whole case (and not just the little medical appointment)!

I shouldn't have been surprised because I know how God loves to show me that He's into the details and wants to take care of us. But this has been a long hard road with so many twists and turns that I  just really don't know what to expect anymore.

When we got word that our case would be expedited, I launched into planning mode, trying to figure out whether or not I'd stay here with Tizita while Chase and Elias went home on the original return flight. There was a flurry of emails and conversations and prayers with friends, family, agency and embassy and in the end we decided that I'd stay here.

And the best part of all!?! My two sisters are coming! They are leaving jobs, kids and family and coming to be with me for a week to help with Tizita and we'll all fly back home together. Isn't that just an incredible blessing!?! I feel SO loved.

We still need prayer for our adoption case though. We've hit a hurryupandwait bump in the road because MOWA (the Ethiopian government agency in charge of adoptions) has still not signed a letter that we need to get Tizita's birth certificate and passport. The passport usually takes at least a week and we don't have that much time to get all that processed and cleared through the embassy. And the letter has been prepared and is sitting on the official's desk waiting to be signed. He has said he will sign. However, he didn't show up to his office for the past two days. Argh.

Chase and Elias left yesterday so I'm here alone and feeling rather vulnerable. I take custody of Tizita tomorrow and it'll be just us two gals for 3 days (which I'm looking forward to) until my sisters arrive.

Will you PLEASE PRAY! For God to move just one more mountain in this adoption case so that we can go home on Wednesday, 1/30? I'm ready for us to be a family of five!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Introducing... Tizita Ann Brown

Tizita is ours! We went to court on Monday, January 14 and the judge declared that Tizita is officially part of the Brown family.

Our travel to Ethiopia was 36 long hours. The plane in Houston had mechanical problems which meant a late departure and a missed connection in Frankfurt. Fortunately we were able to catch a later flight on Turkish Airlines (best airplane food EVER!) through Istanbul. We didn't get to bed until 4am Sunday morning and slept until noon.

Elias was hyper and ecstatic with anticipation when he woke up.  We got our things together as quickly as possible and walked to the orphanage.

We entered her room and there she was near the door, all decked out in a fancy dress and her hair decorated with pretty little barrettes. She was just absolutely precious and the first moments between her and the Brown boys was so tender and sweet. 

On Monday the court process was rather anti-climatic. We were crowded into a nondescript room with other adoptive families and finally the court assistant announced that it was our turn. We entered the judge's office and sat in chairs along the wall while she reviewed our file.  She then looked up and asked us a series of questions to which we replied with short answers (as instructed).

After just a few minutes of being in the room, the judge looked at us and said, "Tizita is now legally part of your family" and we all got a little emotional. She then added, "This adoption cannot be revoked or changed in any way." Elias immediately said, "Why would she even say that?" I love that he is so secure in families made permanent through adoption.

We've spent everyday at the orphanage with our sweet daughter. She is hesitant with us, especially Chase as she isn't used to being around men. But with each visit, she gets more comfortable at the end and smiled and talks a little.

Having a laughing, affectionate child who bonds with us immediately sounds dreamy, but it's not preferred. We want her to be hesitant. We want her to be selective in who she bonds with. All this shows that she is not "shopping for a mommy" and is forming attachments carefully. She is very bonded to the Sisters and cries for them whenever she hears one of their voices. They immediately take her and snuggle her close and she gets calm and happy. We know that one day soon, she'll be doing that with us.

It's a strange feeling to have a daughter who is living away from you and being cared for by others. But we are thankful that she is loved and favored and we know God is protecting her and covering her with peace.
Walking up the steps to the orphanage
Chase meets his daughter
"She is precious!"
Sister and brother meet for the first time

Family photo (she isn't too happy here)

My first time to meet her in November

With the Sisters

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ethiopia Bound!

The long-awaited trip is almost here! We leave in 2 days for Ethiopia and are starting to get giddy with excitement.

This trip is monumental for us on so many levels. First and foremost of course is that Chase and Elias get to meet Tizita for the first time! Our agency grants us almost complete independence during our stay in Addis, so we will spend everyday at the orphanage with her, just getting to know her more and giving her lots of cuddles and kisses.

Our court date is on Monday, January 14. This is when we will legally adopt her in the court system. Once we pass court and she is officially a Brown then the agency staff will work on getting all the paperwork in order- birth certificate, passport, etc- and send our case to the U.S. embassy. The embassy then reviews the file and will contact us for an embassy appointment where they will issue her a U.S. visa and then we can bring her home.

The time in between court and embassy is usually 2-4 months, so we will return back to Texas after just a week in Ethiopia and wait for our time to return to bring her home. It's going to be a hard wait! We are requesting for Tizita's case to be expedited for medical reasons and the Ethiopian staff is assuring us that they are going to be rushing through their part of the processing so that she can get home as soon as possible.

Please pray with us that this is the case and that the embassy approves our request to expedite her case! Tizita is well loved in the orphanage and for this we are very thankful. But her medical needs are extensive and we hope the embassy allows her to go home with us as soon as possible.

And then the other huge part of our trip is Elias getting to see his homeland where he spent the first 17 months of his life. We will be spending time with his birth family, a paternal grandmother, aunt and uncle, who raised him for that first year and we anticipate this being a very emotional but wonderful time. Elias is a walking story of redemption and hope and we just can't wait for his birth family to get to see him in action.

His family never knew that he would get to have a prosthetic leg, much less walk and run and play sports. They have seen pictures and some video (when I was there in November) and were astounded, but to see him in person will just be an incredible experience for them. It will be exhilarating, emotional and overwhelming for all of us but we are praying protection and peace over our sweet son and trust that it will be a good time.

We will also be spending time with our friends Jimmy and Rachel Gross and No Ordinary Love Ministries and traveling 6 hours south to Soddo to see the Gabrysch family at Soddo Christian Hospital.

It's going to be a full trip!

We will be blogging while we are there. And when we pass court we'll be allowed to finally post full pictures of our beautiful daughter so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I leave you with random family photos from the past few weeks.

Family Photo

Last picture of Star Wars leg before he got a new socket

Dramatic photo of Merin showing her most loved outfit of the holiday season.


Yogurt body wash (and she insists on wearing hats or hoodies on most days)
Christmas Day

Snow in Texas!

I love the toddler figure in high heels

Happy 8th Birthday Elias!