2014 Adoption Video

I, Suzanne, am about to head out to Atlanta, GA tomorrow for my favorite adoptive mom’s retreat, Created for Care. I get to meet with some of my closest friends and meet new ones. I get to eat my food and coffee warm without reheating it 11 times. I get to go to the bathroom without hearing “mmooommm…..” I get to share stories with other moms who understand each other, laughing and crying, encouraging new moms and gleaning from those who have done this for a while. And I get to come home refreshed, hopefully a better mom than when I left.

Plus I’m packing flip-flops.

I always go expecting God to speak to me and fill me, and He does not fail. Last year, we were in the early stages of a whirlwind tour of adopting the three siblings of our oldest boy. The early part where you have sent a LOT of money and paperwork and still are not sure if your state is going to say “yes,” if Ethiopia is going to say “yes,” and if you can even handle adding three older kids to your already full house of six kids, three of whom are adopted as well.

But the moment the conference started with the song “He is With Us” by Love and the Outcome, the words cut straight to the depths of my soul–that God was telling me that I can trust Him, that He knows what He is doing, even if I have NO CLUE.

It is a hard road, but I know God is with us through it all and that we can trust Him. I am SO thankful for this upcoming weekend and for some quiet and space to hear what my Father wants to tell me this year. (Thank you, dear hubby, for giving me this gift, and being Superdad while I am gone!)

Every mom wants a “new baby video.” Here is ours of our newest three kiddos!

Our Adoption Story Featured on Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Site

While we were in Ethiopia this summer, we happened to cross paths with Dave Ramsey’s video producer, Jason Crossman. Turns out Jason was staying at the same guest house while he was doing some work in the area. He and Suzanne chatted over breakfast one morning and then he asked if he could interview us. We started using Dave’s Financial Peace principles several years ago and that approach has been instrumental to our ability to afford the expenses for three adoptions.

The video was released last fall (not sure how we haven’t posted it sooner–oh, I know: we have nine kids).

You can also see the video on Dave Ramsey’s site.

January’s

On Monday, January 12, 2015 we finalized the re-adoption of our most-recent four kids in court. This is basically a formality since our adoption is already legal and binding without this extra step. However, through this process we legally changed their first and middle names, and they will each receive an official US document, similar to a birth certificate, that will help them some day when they want to get a job.

Court 2015This event being in January got me reflecting on how often a January event was a big part of our timeline throughout our adoption processes. Here is a list:

Jan 2010 – During a prayer with then-7 year old Liam about our two kids that we would be adopting (paperwork not yet finished for two young kids we were not yet matched with at the time), and with a tear in his eye, he asked me, “Mom, aren’t there older kids at the orphanage? What about them? That is not fair, that the younger kids get picked and the bigger kids have to stay there longer!” I agreed with him, and those words haunted me every day after. At some point I KNEW, as crazy as it seemed, that we were supposed to adopt an older boy who was alone and about to age out of the system. I didn’t know how that would play out, and I had many conversations with God and confusion for a while as to what He was doing with that, but my Father was busy teaching me patience and trust.

Jan 2011 – Brought Aidan and Eva, our first two adopted children, home as part of our family. Experienced Ethiopian Christmas (Jan 7) before we left, in which God fulfilled a promise He made to me about spending Christmas with our new kids, just not in the way I expected. As we checked into the guest house in Ethiopia and filled out paperwork, I distinctly remember writing 1-1-11 as the check in date and 1-11-11 as the check out date, and realizing that this was going to be a year of 1st’s.

Jan 2012 – On the 20th of this January, God specifically told me that NOW is the time to start getting ready for “our boy,”so we started our paperwork. Kieran showed up on our agency’s waiting child list two months later and God began a series of several specific ways in which He showed us that this was to be our son. Later in May, we found out that Kieran had arrived at the orphanage on the exact date, Jan 20, 2012, that He told me it was time! We brought Kieran home a few months later in October.

Jan 2013 – Starting making arrangements to look into getting Kieran’s leg fixed. Spent a week in February at Shriners Children’s Hospital in St Louis to do research and determine the issues, and then another week in Oct/Nov for a major leg surgery. It was during that hospital stay that we found out that Kieran’s three younger siblings were now unexpectedly at the orphanage. Finished the year in prayer and fasting as to what to do about that news, and decided just before Christmas that we needed to keep the four siblings together and that we would do what we could to bring them home.

Jan 2014 – Started the paperwork for our third adoption. Against all odds (including our state, who rarely says yes to large families, the true threat–at the time–of Ethiopia closing its doors, and the recently added USCIS PAIR process that adds much wait time to adoptions), God sped us through the process and brought the three new kids home that July!

Eleven years ago, when I was pregnant with Maura, child #3, I distinctly remember sitting in the back of our church at a wedding, and a man from our church warning us, “Now you know, you will now have to change from man-to-man defense to zone….” Little did we know how prophetic his words would be! I so often have told others I wish I was an octopus with eight arms, but now that is not even enough, with nine kids!

So here we are, Jan 2015. Wondering what God will bring this year. Trusting He will do His will in our lives, and praying we will learn more trust in Him and wisdom as we go.

Here’s to New Years!

A Grant, a Cruise, and a Video

As many of you know, adoption can be an expensive undertaking: international adoptions can cost $30,000 or more. That’s a lot of money, and most adoptive families don’t have that kind of cash sitting around. We didn’t and don’t.

Fortunately, we’ve come across many generous family, friends, and organizations that have helped us with the financial burden of adoption. One of those is Gift of Adoption.

With our most recent adoption, Suzanne applied for a grant from GOA. They notified us a few months ago that we’d been chosen to receive a grant, and then followed up to invite us to a fundraiser event in Chicago. So this weekend, Suz and I spent an overnight in Chicago, spoke at the fundraiser (a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan), and got to hang out with some really fine people who are helping families like ours bring children home. We had a delightful time sharing our story and were warmly welcomed by everyone we met.

GOA asked us to put together a video to introduce our family at the event. It’s shown above (also here).

We are genuinely grateful to Gift of Adoption Fund as well as Brian Knight, Lauren Monkiewicz, and the members of  the Illinois Chapter Junior Board who organized the fundraiser and invited us out for a special night–not to mention the numerous donors and event attendees. Families like ours have come together because of your vision and generosity. Thank you, thank you for what you’re doing.

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