Two weeks home

I know we’ve been pretty quiet since we brought home our kids from Ethiopia. That is mainly because there is no time to be on the computer! I know we need to write about our time in Ethiopia, but I wanted to quickly give a little update because I know many are wondering how we are doing. Thanks for being patient with us and praying for us in the meantime!

Some things we have been doing:

  • teaching all three kids to ride bikes (everyone pitched in to help :) )
  • many, many doctor appts
  • training to eat new food
  • playing games, throwing footballs, etc.
  • teaching Saturday (and every day) chores
  • going to the movies
  • Friday night pizza and movie night at home
  • church
  • little bit of ESL tutoring
  • Facetime with Ethiopian friends now in America
  • Erin’s daily band camp and some babysitting
  • Girl time: Caitlin Tigist, Erin, and mom clothes shopping in Spfd
  • registering for schools (will be spread across 4 schools this year!)
  • van shopping (that’s a fun family outing, right??)
  • Kieran got braces
  • fun with friends

One of our favorite friend gatherings was a bonfire at the Belley’s home along with the Mott family. The Belleys just came home with their new Ethiopian son a week and a half ago, and the Motts are working really hard to bring the older brother of their two Ethiopian daughters home as well–hoping to do so before the end of the year. Our Lincoln-Ethiopian community is growing into a beautifully woven tapestry!

Fun planned for next week before school starts for Erin & Kieran:

  • one new kid birthday party
  • family trip to zoo
  • Big Daddy Weave concert for the bigs
  • more doctor appts!
  • Maura to church camp

Many of you have also asked what you can do to help us. So here are some ideas:

  • PRAY! I know that is a given, but we need prayer warriors! Satan hates adoption and family and would love to disfigure a picture of God’s redemption. So please pray for peace and unity in our family, and for wisdom for us as parents.
  • Supplies–when you are at the store, grab an extra item below. These are the things we go through like crazy!
    • 2% milk
    • bananas another other fruit
    • baby carrots
    • toilet paper
    • dishwasher detergent
  • Funding–We still have some adoption bills to pay, and we need to buy a 15-passenger van (driving two vehicles everywhere is not going to work for long!). Lifesong for Orphans has agreed to keep our donation account open until the end of September, so if you are still wishing to help us out, you can find details on how to do that at our fundraising tab.

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement! You truly are a blessing to us!

We are coming, kiddos!!

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Two weeks ago we made an educated guess (and another leap of faith) and purchased tickets to Ethiopia to get our kiddos! If we waited, I was so afraid we would not get 7 seats together on the airplane to come home, so we took our chances. We didn’t even have Kieran’s passport yet, but that’s how we roll! Last Tuesday (4 days ago) we found out for sure that we have an Embassy appointment on Monday July 21 and all the pieces are coming together. We leave for Ethiopia in two days!

Here is the plan:

We fly out of Springfield Monday morning July 14–Michael and I, plus Kieran and Erin. We get to the hotel in Ethiopia Tuesday night (Ethiopian time, 8 hours ahead of CST) and SLEEP. Wednesday morning we will pick up the kids FOREVER and hang at the guest house most of the day with several other families and their kids. Thursday morning we will drive all day to visit Kieran and his siblings’ birth family. We will stay in a pretty primitive hotel, spend the next day (Friday) in his village, spend another night in said hotel, and drive back to Addis on Saturday. Monday the 21st is the Embassy appointment, and then we wait two days to get the kids’ visas and fly home Wednesday night!

On the Tuesday between Embassy appointments, we will spend the day with Kieran’s older half-brother who is going to school in Addis. Also if we are lucky, one of Kieran’s soon-to-be best buddies will have an embassy appointment during that same week. We are so excited that another big boy at the same orphanage, Tamarat Belley, will be living in our same town and come home almost the same time!! And yet another big boy, B Mott, will hopefully come home to our neighboring town 10 minutes away later this year. God is doing something big in Lincoln with 10+ Ethiopian kiddos!

Prayer requests:

  • travel safeties and that ALL our bags make the trip with us
  • time with kids as a family–unity and bonding
  • pray like Elijah that the rains will hold back and we can travel to see the birth family as planned (see James 5:17-18)
  • blessings on time with birth family–peace and closure, especially for Kieran who didn’t get to say goodbye 5 years ago as he left for medical help, which later turned into adoption
  • physical strength for Kieran through airports and as we travel in more primitive areas
  • health and God’s direction for Erin (14yo daughter) who gets really sick on airplanes but feels a call to be a missionary in Ethiopia in the future
  • blessings and peace for my mom as she stays home with the rest of the kiddos
  • thanks to God who is taking care of our finances. You can go here if you want to be a part of that.

Nine kids.

It’s a good thing God doesn’t reveal too much of the future for us or we might bow out. :) Six months after we said “yes” and started the paperwork (read about that here), we are now bringing them home in record time.

God is writing this story and we are humbled to be a small part of His plans. As one of my favorite songs by Francesca Battistelli says,

My life
I know it’s never really been mine
So do with it whatever you like
I don’t know what your plan is
But I know it’s good, yeah…

I want my history to be your legacy
Go ahead and show this world
What you’ve done in me
And when the music fades
I want my life to say…

I let you write your story on my heart

 
If you would like to meet the kids and help welcome them home, we are supposed to arrive at the Springfield airport at 6pm on Thurs July 24. There will be a church bus going to pick us up, so if you want a ride from Lincoln, check with Betsy Lewis. After that, we will not be out in public much for a while as we start to bond as a family.

Thank you, again, for being a part of this crazy journey with us!
 

By the Numbers: Quick Trip to Ethiopia

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After 4 airports, nearly 36 hours of travel, and 14,000 miles in the air, Suzanne and I are home. Thanks for all the prayers, encouragement, and support along the way–many of you walk this journey with us and we couldn’t do it without you. Seriously.

Even as tired as we are, though, we’d turn around and do it again tomorrow to get those kids here. Here’s to hoping the wait for our embassy appointment is short.

(UPDATE: For the record, the numbers above are for the one-way trip from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Springfield, IL. Double them for the round trip.)

And Now We Have Nine Children

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We passed court today so we have the pleasure of introducing:

“Tigist Michael Gowin”
“Dawit Michael Gowin”
“Solomon Michael Gowin”

We are going to talk with them today about some American names we have picked out, but for now these are their official names.

Today is still very busy–we’ll have time with the kids this afternoon and then we’ll need to pack for our flight out tonight. More details to come soon.

(Bonus: our checked bags arrived today–just in time for us to pass out some gifts on behalf of friends and then to turn around and head home tonight.)

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Tigist

 

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Dawit

 

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Solomon

Whirlwind Trip to Ethiopia

In case you haven’t heard this already, Michael and I are on our way to Ethiopia today. Just 5 months after applying to our adoption agencies, and even after a two month wait for our state paperwork to come through, we are about to head to court to adopt three more kiddos! Yes, we are aware. That makes nine.

Last November, only days, in fact, after Kieran’s leg surgery at Shriners in St. Louis, I got an email that Kieran’s three younger siblings were now at the orphanage. What?!? We spent focused time in prayer and fasting about it with some close friends, and, well, here we go again…. :)  (You can read our original, more detailed announcement here.)

This adoption has felt so different from the others. Some sense of urgency that we don’t quite understand yet. Even the fact that the adoption pursuit began in the middle of the turmoil that was threatening to close down Ethiopian adoptions was actually another force that hastened our adoption along rather than slowing it down. We went forward, putting forth a large amount of money, taking the risk that we knew we were supposed to be doing this and that God would do what HE wanted to do.

It seems like this time around, immediately after we would finish one crisis or focused time (like after taking an intensive class on parenting kids from hard places, after K’s surgery, after we taught our first Empowered To Connect class, after renovating our home for more kids, etc.), God has dropped the next ball in our laps to juggle. At least He is not giving us everything at the same time!

So along the same pattern, we got a call late last Monday from our agency saying that we might be traveling on Friday! And then we didn’t hear for sure till Wednesday!

We were originally told that September would be the earliest we would travel since the new Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) would take that long. However, for some reason ours went through more quickly than our agency has ever seen it happen! God has a plan, and for some reason He wants these kids home PRONTO! Maybe when it is all said and done we will understand better. Maybe not. But we continue to trust and try to enjoy the ride–even if the ride this time is a high speed roller coaster!

So if you would like to pray for us, here are our prayer points:

  • for our short time with our kids and to pass court
  • for finances to come as quickly as our adoption
  • ESPECIALLY for Kieran’s leg to heal quickly so he can go with us on our second trip in a month to bring the kids home. He really needs to say goodbye to some family that he didn’t get to before.

Thanks again for joining us on our journey! Hope you like roller coasters!

Normal Vs. Us, Episode 01: In Which We Will Fly To Ethiopia on Extremely Short Notice

 

International adoption brings with it a host of peculiarities: having your personal and financial doings exposed to strangers, the seemingly endless hours of paperwork, waiting, more paperwork, more waiting, travel, inevitable but awkward questions from (usually) well-meaning folks.

Today I want to highlight just one oddity–the way family plans can change dramatically and unexpectedly in just a few days.

Here’s the scene: on Monday, a husband and wife are seated at the breakfast table conversing about activities later in the week. Same conversation on Wednesday, the husband simply making sure the Friday plans are still valid.

What it looks like for “normal” families

Monday

Husband (munching on toast): What are we doing Friday?

Wife (looking at calendar): Kids are out of school at 2:00, the boys have haircuts. Then the usual–pizza and family movie night.

Husband (munching): OK.

Wednesday

Husband (munching on toast): So what are we doing Friday again?

Wife (distractedly): Kids are out of school at 2:00, Liam and Aidan have haircuts. Family movie night.

Husband (munching): OK.

And here’s what it looks like for families involved in international adoption

Monday

Husband (munching on toast): What are we doing Friday?

Wife (looking at calendar): Kids are out of school at 2:00, the boys have haircuts. Then the usual–pizza and family movie night.

Husband (munching): OK.

Wednesday

Husband (munching on toast): So what are we doing Friday again?

Wife (distractedly): The agency called. We need to leave for Ethiopia on Friday for a court appointment Tuesday. My mom’s driving up from Oklahoma tomorrow to stay with the kids.

Husband (munching): OK.

Annnnnd that’s our week, friends. For real.

Our adoption agency has said that our paperwork was moving faster than expected but you’re never really sure what that means. So we’ve been in a holding pattern for a few weeks.

And then they called on Monday and said we needed to schedule a court appointment in Ethiopia, could we check our calendar? We suggested some dates. They called yesterday (Wednesday) to confirm that we have a court appointment next Tuesday.

So Suzanne and I will hop on a plane (three planes, really) tomorrow for Ethiopia, spend a couple days with the kids, go to court on Tuesday morning, then hop on a plane to come back home Tuesday night.

No biggie.

That’s how we roll when it’s normal vs. us.

Parenting: Not For Wimps

The Creator of the universe finds parenting to be challenging:

I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me,
People who make wrong turns,
who insist on doing things their own way.
They get on my nerves,
are rude to my face day after day,
Make up their own kitchen religion,
a potluck religious stew. (Isaiah 65.2-3)

Why should we expect it to be happier, easier, or somehow different?

This post, which appeared today on the Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Ministry Facebook page, offers a better perspective:

God does not say to us: “Clean up your mess, get your act together, straighten yourself out, act your age, and stop embarrassing me…and then you can come to me and we can have a relationship.”

Instead, he says: “I will come to you in the midst of your mess, misbehavior, immaturity, impulsiveness, disobedience, selfishness, and falling apart…and I will meet you just as you are, right where you are. But, I will not leave you there. I will gently, yet firmly, lead you toward the hope, healing, and freedom that can only be found when you are truly connected.”

May our parenting reflect more and more this life-giving, grace-filled, transformational love of a God that runs to us, even when we are still far away.

The journey is not always happy, but there is joy when you know how to see it.